Grinding Teeth: When You Should Seek Help from a Dentist

grinding teethSometimes it’s tricky to figure out if you’re grinding your teeth or not. If you’re waking up with sore jaws or have teeth that are starting to chip away, you may be left wondering when it’s time to seek help from a dentist for this problem.

How do I Know if Am I Grinding My Teeth? 

A trip to your dental office can quickly answer this question, as there are many telltale signs in the mouth to help your dentist see if you might be grinding when you don’t realize it.

Most patients, if asked, will answer no, as they really aren’t aware when they’re clenching and grinding, to begin with. After all, most of this bad habit is done while sleeping, so how could you know, …right?

Ask those who live in your household if they’ve ever hear you grinding your teeth in your sleep. It sounds like you’re chewing on rocks. Ask them if they see you sleeping with your mouth open. If it’s open, then you know you can’t be grinding.

Ask those who live in your household if they’ve ever heard you grinding your teeth in your sleep. It sounds like you’re chewing on rocks. Ask them if they see you sleeping with your mouth open. If it’s open, then you know you can’t be grinding.

If you live alone, ask yourself…do I ever wake up feeling like I’m clenching or grinding my teeth? Do my jaw muscles feel sore…especially in the mornings? Does it hurt to eat chewy foods like bagels, tough meat or gum? Do I wake up with headaches? Do any of my teeth suddenly feel loose or just very sensitive? On your commute home, do you find yourself clenching your teeth tightly together? If the answer is yes to any of these, then you may very well have an issue with bruxism or even TMJ disorder/TMD. 

What is Bruxism/TMJ/TMD?

The formal name for grinding your teeth is “bruxism.” Your teeth aren’t the only victim of chronic clenching; the jaw is too. Your TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) is what allows your jaw to open and close. This joint can become sore/swollen when under too much pressure from clenching or grinding, in which case your dentist may tell you that you have TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder).

Why Do I Grind My Teeth so Much?

There are many reasons people grind their teeth…stress probably being #1.

When we sleep, we often process our stress from the day & grinding seems to be one way our body works things out. Certain medications can increase the likelihood of this happening – anti-depressant anxiety meds being at the top of the list.

Focusing on small, detailed objectives can also cause grinding….like working on a computer, taking a test, or even driving in traffic!

When is Teeth Grinding Harmful to My Mouth? 

Grinding is never good. The masseter (jaw) muscle is the strongest muscle in the body. The extreme pressure exerted when clenching/grinding can make your teeth loose or have symptoms like a tooth that needs a root canal. It also wears away the enamel and potentially causes teeth to be:

  • Shortened
  • Dull
  • Sensitive
  • Chipped or cracked

 How Can I Stop this Bad Habit?

It’s very difficult to just stop grinding your teeth. There are patients who have found success with alternative remedies like using biofeedback or relaxation techniques. A reduction in stress (when possible) can make a difference. For most, a nightguard can be the quickest, most effective way to protect the teeth, reposition the jaw, and reduce or eliminate the symptoms associated with grinding.

Bruxism and TMJ therapy in Ventura can help you protect your smile for years to come.

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Are you waking with a sore jaw? Schedule an appointment with Ventura cosmetic dentist Dr. David Satnick, DDS, or for more information call 805.639.3050 now!

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