You have bruxism if you clench and grind your teeth a lot, even if you are unaware of it. You also are not alone. Bruxism is most common in adults between the ages of 25 and 44, and at least 50 percent of adults experience it at some point in their lives.
Keep in mind that everyone grinds or clenches their teeth on occasion, but that doesn’t mean they have bruxism. Dentists only apply this term to patients who continually or subconsciously clench and grind their teeth to the point that it causes damage.
Common Causes of Bruxism
Stress is one of the leading causes of teeth clenching and grinding. With the financial pressures and stress of the last year due to the pandemic, it should come as no surprise to anyone that cases of bruxism are on the rise. When teeth clenching and grinding happens during sleep, it is usually due to subconscious worry that causes tension in the facial muscles and jaw. Other causes of bruxism can include:
- Abnormal bite due to missing or misaligned teeth.
- Lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and consuming beverages with high amounts of caffeine.
- Neurological diseases such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s that can cause teeth clenching and grinding during sleep and while awake.
- Nocturnal disorders such as sleep apnea (two of the main symptoms being clenching teeth and gasping for breath).
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), a classification of drugs used to treat depression.
How to Tell if You Have Developed Bruxism
Sometimes it can be challenging to know that you have bruxism because symptoms do not always occur in the mouth and jaws and can mimic other conditions. Here are some common non-oral symptoms associated with bruxism:
- Difficulty opening your mouth all the way
- Facial pain
- Jaw pain, which may also be a sign of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- Sleep disturbances
- Stiffness and pain in the shoulders
Bruxism also causes several oral symptoms. These include:
- Fractured teeth
- Jaw misalignment
- Loose or lost teeth
- Recession and inflammation of gums
- Worn teeth
If you recognize at least a few of these symptoms, please contact us for an appointment as soon as possible. Your dentist will discuss treatment options after completing an exam.
How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth
It is important to understand what causes you to clench and grind your teeth and treat that first. For example, you could benefit from orthodontic treatment if you have a misaligned bite and a dental cap if you have a cracked tooth. Your dentist can also prescribe a mouthguard to wear at night to prevent you from clenching or grinding your teeth. Other causes are often treatable without dental intervention, such as lowering your stress level or making other lifestyle changes.