What is Bruxism? Managing Grinding Teeth

Do you wake up in the morning with a tender jaw, stiff neck, and sore teeth? If so, then you might be dealing with bruxism. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash, or clench your teeth.” Although bruxism ranges in severity, if left untreated, it may lead to complications with your teeth and jaw down the road.

In general, bruxism is divided into two categories: sleep bruxism and awake bruxism. It’s often much easier to diagnose and treat awake bruxism, since you’re consciously able to stop clenching and grinding your teeth when awake. Sleep bruxism is trickier to diagnose, but is still treatable with the help of a dental professional.

What Causes Bruxism?

Like many behavior-related conditions, there’s not one clear cause for bruxism. This being said, bruxism cases are often correlated with heightened anxiety and tension.

The likelihood of developing bruxism may also be determined by family history and age. For example, it’s common for children to experience sleep bruxism when they’re young, and to grow out of it as they mature.

What are the Symptoms of Bruxism?

Bruxism symptoms range from mild discomfort to severe pain. If you’re wondering whether your symptoms indicate bruxism, it’s always best to visit your dentist or doctor and get a professional opinion.

Common bruxism symptoms include:

  • Grinding and clenching teeth. For patients who are dealing with sleep bruxism, it may be difficult to catch yourself grinding and clenching.

  • Damage to teeth such as worn enamel, cracks, and chips.

  • Sore, tender teeth when eating or brushing.

  • Jaw, neck, or face pain. Bruxism can also cause “ear” pain, that actually stems from the jaw but feels like it’s located in the ear.

  • Compromised motion in the jaw such as difficulty opening and closing the mouth.

  • Headaches, particularly around the temples.

How Do You Treat Bruxism?

There are multiple treatment methods available to help prevent bruxism and relieve discomfort from clenching and grinding. In general, treatments for grinding teeth are focused on relieving the pressure the jaw exerts on the neck, jaw muscles, and teeth. According to the Cleveland Clinic, jaw muscles can exert “up to 250 pounds of force, causing jaw pain and teeth problems.”

Night Guards – Wearing a night guard while sleeping is the most common treatment for sleep bruxism. Night guards are dental appliances made of thick, durable plastic that are custom made for your mouth. They are designed to fit around your teeth like a retainer, and provide jaw muscles with relief from pressure caused by clenching. They also protect your teeth from chips, cracks, and other complications caused by grinding. Most dental practices are able to provide night guards, so ask your dentist about possible treatment options.

Muscle Relaxants – In some cases your dentist or doctor might prescribe a muscle relaxant to help manage your bruxism while sleeping. Muscle relaxants help your body unclench during sleep and prevent unconscious tension from causing headaches and neck pain in the morning.

At-Home Remedies – If you’re looking for swift, at-home remedies there are several tactics you can use to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. For topical relief, use a hot compress or hot water bottle to treat neck, shoulder, and jaw pain. The heat helps tight muscles relax and releases tension in the body. You can also try treating sore muscles with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These medications provide temporary relief from intense discomfort. 

Anxiety Management – Since bruxism is often caused by anxiety, it’s useful to treat anxiety as the root cause of your discomfort. Seeking counseling from a licensed mental health professional is a great first step to feel more relaxed and cope with difficult emotions. You can also try stress management techniques like exercise and meditation to reduce your stress and help alleviate tightness in muscles and joints.

How Do You Prevent Bruxism?

The most effective way to prevent bruxism is to stay on top of your oral health. The easiest way to stay on top of oral care is to visit your dentist regularly. If you’re experiencing any bruxism symptoms or suspect you may be holding onto tension in your jaw, have your dentist take a look at your next routine cleaning.

You can also help reduce the risk of bruxism by attending to your mental health. Managing anxiety and engaging in relaxing and mindful activities will help with your overall wellbeing, and that includes minimizing the tension in your jaw.

Work with a Team You Trust

At Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry, we are dedicated to helping our patients feel their best. Our office provides a comfortable, professional, and stress-free environment where patients receive preventative care and dental health solutions. Our team is here to provide you with timely treatments and comprehensive care plans for all your dental health needs.

It’s time to let go of pain and tension caused by bruxism. At Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry, we are here to help you take charge of your oral health.