Do you frequently wake up with a sore jaw or headache? Are your teeth especially sensitive to hot or cold foods? If so, you may be grinding your teeth at night without even knowing it. Oftentimes people grind their teeth if they’re under a lot of stress, but it can also be caused by a misaligned jaw or crooked teeth. You may not think that grinding your teeth is a very serious issue, but without treatment it can cause permanent damage to your teeth, insomnia, and increased dental problems.
What is Bruxism?
The US National Library of Medicine defines bruxism as clenching or grinding your teeth. This can happen during the day or at night, but it’s common that those suffering from bruxism aren’t even aware of it. Tightly clenching your teeth puts increased pressure on the muscles, tissues, and structures around your jaw, which can lead to more serious temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ). Consistently grinding your teeth back and forth wears them down and can lead to fractured teeth or other dental problems. Here are some symptoms of bruxism to keep an eye out for:
- Anxiety, stress, and tension
- Sore or painful jaw
- Hot, cold, or sweet sensitivity in the teeth
- Eating disorders
- Muscle tenderness – especially in the morning
When it comes to treating bruxism, the main goals are to reduce any pain, prevent permanent damage to your teeth, and to reduce the clenching and grinding of your teeth. Sometimes bruxism can be caused by misaligned teeth or an abnormal bite alignment. If this is the case, undergoing orthodontic treatment to properly align your teeth and jaw will help to equally redistribute your biting forces and reduce bruxism symptoms. Here are a few at-home tips to help reduce your bruxism symptoms:
- Reduce your daily stress and adopt relaxation habits
- Apply ice or wet heat to sore facial muscles
- Avoid eating hard foods and chewing gum
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Get enough sleep
- Massage your back, neck, shoulder, and face muscles and keep an eye out for painful trigger points
- Try to relax your face and jaw muscles throughout the day
For many people, simply taking steps to reduce daily stress can help minimize bruxism symptoms. To prevent damage to the teeth, you can also wear a mouth guard or splint.
Protecting Your Braces
If your bruxism is linked to a problem with your bite, an orthodontist can help to realign your teeth and jaw so they fit together comfortably. Wearing a night guard is one of the best solutions for preventing damage to your teeth by holding teeth in position. An occlusal splint or night guard is custom fitted to your teeth like a retainer, but it also has a layer of plastic in between your teeth. This layer is adjusted so that all of your teeth are touching evenly and it can prevent tooth wear if your grinding continues. Even if you don’t have an optimal bite to start, the split creates an artificial bite that can help to reduce bruxism and TMJ symptoms. The frequency and intensity of your teeth grinding and clenching can typically be reduced with a well-adjusted night guard.
As your Melbourne orthodontist, we understand that a retainer isn’t the best option for everyone to wear at night. For those struggling with bruxism, a night guard can help to protect their teeth and jaw from pressure and damage. If you’re worried that your bruxism symptoms are increasing throughout your orthodontic treatment, or if you’re concerned it will damage your braces, talk to Dr. Reddick at your next appointment. Your orthodontist can help to address the issue early to prevent any interference with your treatment or further damage to your teeth.
If you think that your bruxism may be caused by a misalignment of your teeth or jaw, it’s best to talk to an orthodontist. There are many contemporary treatment options that can help to straighten your teeth effectively and permanently. There’s no reason to continue to suffer from early morning headaches or facial soreness caused by nightly bruxism. Give the team at Melbourne Orthodontics a call today to discuss your options and take a step towards a healthier smile and better nights sleep.