If Yosemite Sam had a dentist, he or she would be very concerned about his teeth grinding habits. He was so uptight that Bugs Bunny’s constant antics caused him to violently grind his teeth together in anger and frustration. If he had known how terrible chronic teeth grinding could be for his dental health, he might have had some paradigm shifts.
Unfortunately, teeth grinding isn’t always a behavioral action. Teeth grinding can plague you or your children during sleep. Here is a quick guide to understanding why teeth grinding is such a problem and what you can do to treat you or your child’s nightly teeth grinding.
Bruxism Symptoms: How to Find Out if You’re Grinding Your Teeth
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and is defined as a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. It is easy enough to figure out whether or not you suffer from Bruxism during the day; all that you have to do is realize that you’re grinding, gnashing or clenching your teeth!
Realizing that you grind your teeth at night, however, can prove to be a much more difficult task. If you don’t have someone around to complain about the lovely sound of teeth being mashed together, night bruxism can go on undetected until it’s too late to prevent severe pains. If you suspect that you might be grinding your teeth at night, ask another member in your household if they can watch to see if you are grinding your teeth as you sleep. Just make sure that it’s someone you trust! It’s never any fun to wake up with your face covered in shaving cream.
Your dentist can also identify tell-tale signs of nightly teeth grinding before the more obvious and more painful symptoms occur. Yet another reason to brave regular check-ups with your dentist!
The same applies for diagnosing Bruxism in children. Teeth grinding at night is more common in children than adults. Keeping a close eye on their sleeping habits and making sure that your children make it out to the dentist regularly can save both you and your children a lot of pain in the future.
What are the Teeth Grinding Symptoms?
Minor cases of normal teeth grinding can yield symptoms that are uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful. If you are grinding your teeth at night and you fail to associate some of the lighter symptoms with night bruxism, however, you may suffer the following, painful symptoms.
- Visible damage to the teeth (chipping, flattening, fracturing)
- Worn tooth enamel leading to greater sensitivity
- Jaw pain or tightness in the jaw muscle
- Headache and earache
- Internal cheek damage from chewing
- Indentations on the tongue
Unlike normal bruxism, night bruxism needs to be treated immediately by a professional. Don’t blow off you or your child’s dental visits. “No pain, no gain,” DOES NOT apply when it comes to night bruxism.
The specific causes of night bruxism are not currently known, but there are some physical and psychological factors that are associated with night bruxism. These factors include:
- Anxiety, stress or tension
- Suppressed anger or frustration
- Abnormal alignment of the teeth
- Other sleep problems
- Pain from earache or teething (for children)
- Symptoms from certain disorders (Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease)
- Side effects from certain medications
Treatment for Bruxism
Minor cases of normal bruxism may not require professional treatment, as grinding of the teeth can be monitored while awake. If you grind your teeth at night, however, you need to immediately consult a professional for treatment to prevent severe and painful damage to your teeth, jaw, tongue and cheeks. Here are some of the common methods for the treatment of night bruxism, which can be separated into two main categories: Stress management and Dental care
If your kids are grinding their teeth at night, you may want to try providing some comfort just before bed in the form of a bedtime story, lullaby, prayer, etc.
- If your night bruxism is associated with stress, anxiety or tension, you may try:
- Professional counseling
- Exercise and or meditation that is safe for your body
- Relaxation rituals (reading articles about sleep, soothing baths, etc.)
If you or your child’s night bruxism is more of a physical problem, your dentist may suggest one of the following items for treatment:
- Hard acrylic splint (constructed on sight or in a laboratory
- Mouth piece (given by the dentist or purchased)
(Check out this great deal I found for one on Amazon: 2 for 1 Teeth Grinding Mouth Piece Bonus Pack)
Some more severe cases of night bruxism may require teeth realignment to reverse the effects of damage done to teeth from grinding
- Proper positioning of the mouth and jaw can also prevent grinding of the teeth
- Tongue rests upward, teeth apart, mouth closed
Unfortunately, there are no medications available that are specifically designed to stop teeth grinding at night. Your doctor may suggest taking a muscle relaxant before you go to sleep if tense muscles seem to cause your particular case of night bruxism. Little research has been done on night bruxism and medicinal treatment information is very limited.
If You’re Grinding Teeth at Night You Can Stop
It can be difficult to notice that you are grinding your teeth at night before suffering severe pain and damage to the teeth without someone’s assistance. Always be mindful of the condition of your teeth and make sure to have regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments.
If your child is grinding his or her teeth at night, keep in mind that many children will outgrow this behavior. Maintain regular dental check-ups (no matter how loudly your children protest) and keep an eye out for any chronic abnormalities in your child’s sleeping habits.