During moments of anger or stress, it’s not uncommon for people to clench and grind their teeth. Teeth grinding, otherwise known as bruxism, can happen during the day, as well as at night when people have no awareness of it. Sleep-related bruxism is particularly problematic because it is harder to control.
There are different theories regarding the cause of bruxism. Daily stress is thought to be the trigger in many people. While some people clench their teeth and never feel symptoms, others face more serious problems from teeth grinding. Other symptoms associated with bruxism include anxiety and tension, depression, earache, eating disorders, headaches, sensitivity in the teeth, insomnia and jaw pain or soreness.
Whether or not bruxism causes pain and other problems is largely due to a complicated mix of factors, such as stress, the tightness of the clenching and grinding, whether the teeth are aligned properly, posture, diet and sleeping habits.
While mild cases of bruxism may require less medical action, severe cases can lead to a number of problems. Clenching the teeth puts pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around the jaw. Accordingly, symptoms can cause temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ), as well as the wearing down of the teeth. Oftentimes, grinding is noisy enough at night to interrupt the sleep of the affected person’s partner.
Be sure to contact your doctor or dentist if your teeth are worn, damaged or sensitive, you have pain in your jaw, face or ear, or if others complain that you make a grinding noise while you sleep.
Oftentimes, a health care provider will suggest a thorough examination to rule out other disorders that may cause similar jaw pain or ear pain, such as dental problems, ear infections and/or other ear problems, and problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Upon diagnosis with bruxism, there are several treatment options to reduce pain, prevent permanent damage to the teeth, and reduce clenching as much as possible.