Five tips to tackle teeth grinding
Bruxing (grinding teeth) and clenching your jaw are serious oral health issues that can lead to ear aches, headaches, worn enamel, tooth sensitivity, chipped teeth and even, in very severe cases, loose or broken teeth.
Grinding generally occurs during the night, and a sore jaw or joints in the morning could be a sign that you are a grinder. Night-time grinding can be very noisy, and whether it’s you or your partner, can result in lack of sleep for both parties, with detrimental effects on your health.
Clenching is silent and more common during the day. If you experience jaw or joint pain near the end of each day, it is likely caused by clenching. If you become aware of this, you can learn to consciously relax your facial muscles and try to make facial relaxation a habit.
“Grinding or clenching teeth can begin at any point in a person’s life, and is often hereditary or related to periods of stress or unexpected changes,” says Dr. Aubey Banack, Orthodontist with The Scarborough Hospital. “Children will sometimes begin grinding or clenching when they are coping with a stressful situation, such as the arrival of a new sibling or their parents’ divorce.”
Dr. Banack adds that children can sometimes experience these issues if they have an ear ache or during tooth development, but will usually outgrow it by adolescence. Stress is the most common factor in both children and adults, and while these situations may come and go, if the grinding and clenching persist, it’s important to discuss possible remedies with your dentist.
If the grinding or clenching is happening throughout the night, you may not be aware of the issue. Some signs to look for are:
- Unexplained muscular or facial pain
- Ear aches
- Tenderness and/or clicking (crepitus) around the jaw joints. Patients who have been experiencing difficulties or are experiencing pain should have their bite checked by their dental care provider.
Dr. Banack adds that the level of severity can depend on several factors such as a person’s stress level, how long and how tightly a person is clenching or grinding, posture, ability to relax, diet and sleeping habits.
He also offers five tips to address bruxing or clenching before it leads to serious oral health issues.
- Drink a lot of water and get plenty of rest.
- Exercise daily to provide yourself with an outlet for stress other than the habit of grinding and clenching.
- Learn physical therapy stretches to restore balance in your muscles and joints.
- Try to reduce stress by participating in stress-reducing activities, in addition to exercise, such as meditation or yoga.
- Visit your dentist to have your bite checked, and if necessary, be fitted for a plastic night guard, worn to assist when you’re not able to control the problem. These night guards should be checked during each visit to your dental care provider to ensure the fit remains consistent with any bite changes that may occur.
Some grinding is normal wear and tear for your teeth as you work them in, similar to a new pair of shoes. However, if you are experiencing constant pain, loose teeth or notice major wear on your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist.