If you experience pain in the muscles in your jaw throughout the day, or if you find that you often wake up in the morning with a headache or soreness in your teeth and/or jaw, it’s very possible that you are suffering from a condition called bruxism (more commonly referred to as jaw clenching or tooth grinding.) The rhythmic clenching of the jaws and grinding of the teeth associated with bruxism can be caused by a variety of factors and can develop at any age. Tooth grinding is often done unconsciously while sleeping, but it can also occur during waking hours.

According to the American Sleep Association, which has studied bruxism extensively, it’s estimated that approximately 10% of adults and up to 15% of children suffer from the condition. Bruxism symptoms can be mild or severe, depending upon the individual case. When symptoms are mild and only occur occasionally, treatment is typically not necessary. However, when bruxism symptoms are frequent and severe the condition can lead to serious dental and medical problems. Because many people are unaware that tooth clenching or tooth grinding is happening (whether because it occurs while they’re asleep or because they do it subconsciously throughout the day), it’s important to know the indications and symptoms to avoid damaging your teeth.

Common signs and symptoms of bruxism:

  • Headaches
  • Facial pain
  • Grinding that can be loud/disruptive enough to wake you while sleeping
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Chewed inner cheek tissue
  • Teeth becoming noticeably worn down, flattened or fractured
  • Earaches
  • Swollen jaw muscles
  • Jaw pain or tightness
  • Tooth indents on the tongue
  • Anxiety, stress, tension
  • Insomnia

Luckily, bruxism is highly treatable! If the symptoms above sound familiar and you suspect that you or a family member is suffering from chronic jaw clenching or tooth grinding, be sure to make an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist immediately to seek the appropriate solution for your condition. One common solution is to use a customized plastic mouth guard, which fits over teeth and can reduce damage from grinding during sleep. Mouth guards also ease the jaw pain associated with bruxism.

Sometimes, simply altering the position you typically sleep in, or eliminating caffeine intake or smoking before bed can eliminate the symptoms of bruxism. Tooth grinding that occurs during the day is easier to manage because you’re more aware of it. If you notice yourself grinding or clenching your teeth, make a point of relaxing your jaw with your mouth closed and your teeth apart. If your dentist or orthodontist suggest that your grinding habit may be related to stress, then it may help to find ways to reduce anxiety, such as stretching more often, practicing breathing exercises or yoga, or listening to relaxing music before bed.

If you’re concerned about damage to your teeth or jaw muscles caused by bruxism, contact Pavlik Orthodontics today to set up a free consultation! Reach us at (352) 376-5055.