I Don’t Grind My Teeth

Jamie J. Alexander on July 14, 2015

Life is crazy busy these days, and I know it is tough to find the time to visit the dentist. But… dental health is a critical part of your overall health, and I want to alert my patients to another trend I’ve been noticing: teeth grinding (also known as bruxism).

As stress levels increase, there is often unconscious grinding and clenching of teeth. You may not be aware of the amount of grinding and clenching you are doing, particularly during sleep. Researchers vary on the exact percentage of American’s that grind their teeth with most studies ranging between 5-20%.

I find the percentage of my patients with young families have a much larger incidence of grinding than my older and younger patients. I attribute that to the stress that young parents and professionals have today.

The internal stress you are experiencing is transferred via your teeth and puts excessive force on your jaw joints (TMJs), jaw and facial muscles, teeth, tooth roots, tooth ligaments, jaw bone and gum tissue. The more this happens, the greater the incidence of inflammation and damage to your entire masticatory (chewing) system.

How will you know if you are grinding your teeth?

  • Look in the mirror and see if you have chips on the edges of your teeth.
  • Look along the gum line for any areas that look notched out.
  • Run your tongue along your back molar teeth for any deep craters on the top edges.
  • Feel the muscles along your cheekbones and temples for any soreness or tenderness.
  • Feel your cheek area in front of your ears when opening and closing for any tightness or soreness. You might hear popping or cracking, too.

When I examine you, I will be looking for these signs and also worn tooth enamel and cracks occurring in the enamel of your teeth… a telltale sign of grinding and clenching.

What can you do?

  • Chill out—although this is easier said than done.
  • Stretch and physically move your body, then relax.
  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol particularly at night.
  • Request an appointment to assess changes in your oral health and determine if you should have a mouth guard to wear at night, or mention you think you may be grinding your teeth at your next dental hygiene visit.

I am an expert at making custom mouth guards so they are comfortable and appropriately relax your jaw muscles and protect you while you sleep. These mouth guards also known as bite splints, can teach your jaw muscle to relax. Many of our patients come to find they can’t sleep without them. When you are aware of grinding and clenching during the daytime, you can pop in your custom mouth guard and find relief.

Intersting Fact:

An even larger percentage of children grind their teeth at night than adults. Parents can be assured that rarely does significant damage occur to their adult teeth. Often times children out grow this by adolescence.