Teeth grinding and clenching, also known as bruxism, is one of the leading causes of toothaches and jaw pain. Left untreated, severe bruxism can quickly cause further problems.
The good news is, by being proactive and partnering with your dentist you can treat teeth grinding and/or clenching and help reduce or even eliminate the occurrence of this involuntary action.
In this article, we’ve broken down the most common symptoms, your dentist’s role in determining the cause, and some effective methods for treating bruxism:
Most Common Symptoms of Bruxism
It can be helpful to be aware of what to look for when it comes to indicators of more severe cases of teeth grinding and/or clenching. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Worn tooth enamel, sometimes even exposing deeper layers of your tooth.
- Increased tooth sensitivity and/or pain.
- Damage to the inside of your cheek from chewing.
- Tight or tired jaw muscles.
- Jaw, face, or neck soreness or pain.
- A locked jaw that won’t close or open completely.
- Pain that mimics an earache.
- Dull headaches that start in your temples.
- Frequent sleep disruptions.
- Grinding your teeth hard and loud enough to wake up your partner.
Dental Evaluation and Determining the Root Cause
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s important to talk to your dentist about it as soon as possible and determine how to treat teeth grinding in your case. Your dentist will evaluate your teeth, determine if your case of bruxism is progressive and getting worse, and look at the extent of any tooth, jaw, or soft tissue damage that may be present.
The other thing that will happen in your evaluation at your dentist’s office is to try and determine what the cause of your teeth-grinding or clenching is. More than likely you’ll be asked questions about any other medical conditions you may have, medications you may be taking, your daily routines, and sleep habits.
Your treatment plan will be based on what exactly is causing your teeth grinding/clenching. Sometimes, it may need to be a team effort. If your bruxism is being caused by major sleep issues, your dentist may prescribe a sleep appliance while also referring you to a sleep medicine specialist. This person can conduct a sleep study and other tests to determine if sleep apnea or another sleep disorder needs to be treated as well.
Similarly, if severe stress, anxiety, or another psychological issue seems to be related to your teeth grinding or clenching, your dentist may refer you to a licensed psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist.
9 Ways to Treat Teeth Grinding and/or Clenching
By making some adjustments and taking advantage of your dentist’s knowledge and expertise, you can effectively overcome bruxism. Depending on what your dentist determines is the main cause(s) of your teeth grinding and/or clenching, you can take action.
Here are some of the most common and effective ways to treat bruxism:
#1 – Splints and Mouth Guards
Nighttime splints or mouth guards are one the most common treatment options. Prescribed by a dentist, these are usually made out of acrylic and fit over your lower or upper teeth. They are designed to either keep your teeth slightly separated or create a physical barrier between your teeth while sleeping. This prevents further damage to your teeth caused by grinding or clenching.
It’s important to note that this method is extremely effective in preventing damage to your teeth from excess wear, but it may not treat the root cause of your bruxism. So, this treatment will usually be used in combination with other treatment options.
#2 – Jaw Behavior Changes
Practicing proper jaw and mouth position can be very effective in changing behavior that can cause bruxism. Your dentist can show you the best position for your jaw and mouth and how that may be different than it is now.
#3 – Stretching Exercises and Jaw Massage
Helping your jaw muscles relax can significantly help to prevent the jaw from clenching at night. To do this, try jaw stretching exercises, massaging the jaw muscles, and applying hot packs to your jaw.
#4 – Biofeedback Therapy
Biofeedback therapy can be an effective treatment option if you’re having a hard time changing the habits that are causing your bruxism. This method uses monitoring and equipment to make you aware of adverse jaw muscle activities and teaches you to control this activity.
#5 – Lifestyle Changes
Sometimes bruxism is a side effect of the usage of certain substances like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Cutting back on and/or limiting the use of these things may help stop your teeth grinding or clenching, especially later in the day. Ideally, you should not consume caffeine after dinner and avoid alcohol in the late evening.
#6 – Anxiety and Stress Management
Anxiety and stress are the biggest root causes of bruxism, causing nearly 70% of cases. Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, journaling, and talk therapy, as well as regular exercise can help lessen overwhelming emotions that can cause you to inadvertently grind or clench your teeth.
#7 – Muscle Relaxants
Your dentist may prescribe muscle relaxants for you to take before you go to sleep. These will help relax your face and jaw muscles and further prevent teeth grinding.
#8 – Botox® Injections
This is a treatment option that is mainly used in extreme cases of bruxism that are not helped by mouth guards or other treatments. Having Botox®, a form of botulinum toxin, injected into your jaw’s masseter muscles helps weaken the muscles and prevents involuntary teeth grinding and clenching.
#9 – Treat Any Associated Conditions or Disorders
Certain medical conditions can be an underlying cause of many cases of bruxism. This includes things like sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or Parkinson’s. So, make sure that you are also having any associated medical conditions addressed and following prescribed treatment for those. This can often help improve symptoms and prevent the occurrence of your bruxism.
Mental health disorders are also commonly associated with teeth grinding and clenching. Your dentist may recommend discussing with your doctor the use of anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants (sometime’s just for short-term use) to help you deal with stress and other emotional issues.
Radomile Family Dental Care Can Help You Beat Teeth Grinding
Like with any health condition, it is important to determine the root cause of the issue to pinpoint the most appropriate treatment for treating your bruxism. As you can see, there are a variety of different ways to treat teeth grinding and clenching.
If you are experiencing symptoms of bruxism, it is important to address it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more damage can occur.
The dentists here at Radomile Family Dental Care can help when it comes to troublesome teeth grinding and/or clenching. We’ll determine the most effective treatment options and recommendations for your case and bring you some relief. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation!