Bruxism is a condition where a person grinds, gnashes, or clenches their teeth. Over time, this can cause substantial damage to the teeth. However, many people do not even realize they have the condition, as grinding and clenching (bruxing) most commonly occurs during sleep.
But with regular checkups and scheduled teeth cleanings, a dentist can identify the problem and help determine the proper treatment. In some cases, this may be as simple as wearing a special mouthguard during sleep to preventing teeth grinding. However, if your bruxism is related to a condition such as temporomandibular disorder, or TMD, the dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon, who specializes in treating TMD.
That’s why understanding the signs and symptoms of bruxism is important. While you need to see a professional for an official diagnosis, knowing the warning signs you should look out for will help you determine whether you should schedule an exam now or simply wait until your next cleaning to have an expert take a closer look.
If you suspect you may have bruxism, watch for these common signs:
1. Tooth Pain
One of the most common causes of tooth pain is grinding. When you grind your teeth, you wear down your enamel. This makes them more sensitive to stimuli that can cause pain.
Though tooth sensitivity and pain can be caused by a number of factors, it’s always best to see a dentist as soon as possible if your teeth are more sensitive than they used to be. Bruxism may be the culprit if you’ve developed tooth sensitivity despite taking steps to maintain proper oral hygiene.
2. Grinding Noises
Because many people brux their teeth while asleep, they often don’t even know they’re doing it—until a family member or significant other tells them. There are some cases of bruxism in which patients grind their teeth so loudly they actually wake their partners.
Ask your partner if they’ve noticed this happening. If they have, it’s a clear sign your teeth need attention.
3. Poor Sleep
If you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep, it’s possible it can be significant enough to disturb your rest. This may be obvious (causing you to wake up throughout the night) or subtle (disrupting your sleep to enough of a degree that you don’t feel rested in the morning).
This is a problem you need to address. Even if bruxism isn’t causing these symptoms, another condition, such as sleep apnea (which can also be treated through oral surgery in many instances), may be. Failing to get proper treatment can result in many health problems, ranging from heart disease to depressed mood. Addressing the issue is crucial for your well-being.
People who grind their teeth often do so as a result of significant facial tension. As such, signs that may indicate facial tension can also indicate bruxism. One shared sign is headaches felt around the temples.
However, people who grind their teeth also sometimes notice a general soreness in their face, neck, and/or jaw. This is due to the constant clenching of their jaw. Schedule a dental appointment if you’ve experienced any of these symptoms on a regular basis.
In the meantime, it’s also a good idea to try to refrain from activities or foods that can cause additional tension in the face. For example, consuming too much caffeine can cause facial tension, which can, in turn, cause teeth grinding. Reducing your caffeine intake may help you reduce the effects of bruxism.
5. Sore Cheeks
Grinding your teeth doesn’t just put your enamel at risk. Sometimes, you’ll miss your teeth and end up biting down on your inner cheek instead.
This is something that tends to happen to everyone from time to time. Usually, it occurs when you’re chewing gum or food. However, if you tend to bite down on your inner cheek often, or if you notice it’s sore more often than you would expect, it could be the result of constant teeth grinding.
Remember, the most important step you can take to guard against bruxism’s harmful effects is to see your dentist at least every six months. They’ll let you know what steps to take next if they notice a problem.