Bruxism: Causes and Symptoms

Do you have sensitive teeth? Do you often experience headaches and pain in your jaw? You may be suffering from “bruxism”. Bruxism is commonly defined as recurrent clenching and grinding of the teeth and can lead to cracked teeth, sensitivity, headaches, jaw pain, and stress fractures in your teeth.

Bruxism is surprisingly common and can stem from many sources. Diet and exercise can cause you to grind your teeth, and is so common among those suffering from alcoholism that earlier cultures would define those suffering from alcohol addiction by describing “the gnashing of teeth, both awake and asleep”. Pain in your mouth can also lead you to clench your teeth and grind them together.

Many people suffering from bruxism complain that they don’t know they are grinding or clenching because the behavior occurs when they sleep. Sleep positioning and inconsistent sleep habits can contribute to bruxism. Sleep position can exacerbate acid reflux while you are sleeping, and it is common for your body to react by clenching your teeth as a reaction to the acid that is being regurgitated into your throat.

Allergies can also lead to bruxism. When you swallow drainage from postnasal drip, there is a tendency to clench your jaw. This can occur at night when you sleep as well as during the day. While decongestants and antihistamines can help, these drugs can also increase your tendency to clench or grind your teeth, creating a cycle that makes it hard to address your bruxism.

In many cases, patients do not realize that they are clenching and only discover that bruxism is occurring because of other symptoms. If you suffer from headaches, jaw pain, or sensitivity, it’s important to have your dentist look at your teeth to determine whether or not your symptoms are related to bruxism. Your dentist can detect stress fractures in your teeth that are the telltale signs of bruxism.

Diet changes and the establishment of a consistent sleep schedule can help a great deal to ease the severity of your bruxism. For many patients, however, these measures do not address nighttime clenching and grinding. Those with acid reflux and allergic conditions also find it difficult to address overnight clenching. The most effective way to reduce damage and treat symptoms is often the use of a mouth guard that you can wear while you sleep. Mouthguards can disrupt the clenching and grinding and eliminate the problems associated with bruxism. Even if you continue to grind your teeth, a mouthguard protects your teeth and reduces the chances that you will crack or break a tooth.

To avoid damage to your teeth, be sure to ask your dentist to check your teeth for stress cracks during your regular cleanings. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, you may be clenching when you sleep and setting yourself up for damage to your teeth. If you are experiencing symptoms, talk with your dentist about what you are feeling so that you and your dentist can discuss the best way to treat you.

Learn more about the causes of tooth sensitivity and mouthguards in our blog articles. Feel free to call us to set up an appointment to determine if a mouthguard might be right for you. We’re here to help!