If you’ve noticed a dull and constant headache or a sore jaw when you wake up in the morning or have been told by your partner/roommate that you’ve been making grinding noises in your sleep, you may be grinding your teeth while you sleep. Because grinding teeth goes so easily unnoticed, you may think that it’s not a big deal, but it could have consequences if left untreated.
The medical term for grinding teeth is bruxism. For most people, grinding teeth only happens at night, which is why they often don’t even realize that they have the condition. If you believe that you suffer from bruxism, speak to your dentist, who will be able to examine your mouth for signs of it.
Teeth grinding can lead to tooth fractures, loosening, and even loss of teeth; that is, if grinding doesn’t simply just wear down teeth to nothing. If that should happen, bridges, crowns, or dentures may become necessary to restore or replace the teeth. Besides affecting the teeth, the tension of grinding can affect the jaw as well and cause changes in facial appearance.
Bruxism is often caused by stress or sleep disorders. If stress is the reason, simply finding ways to relax can fix the problem. It may be necessary to talk to a doctor to learn new relaxation techniques. If a sleep disorder is the cause of the condition, you’ll need to be diagnosed and treated. An easy solution that your dentist can provide is a mouth guard, which will protect your teeth while you sleep. He or she may also recommend taking a muscle relaxant at bedtime.
It’s not unusual to find cases of bruxism in children. Unlike for adults, however, it normally is not a damaging condition, as children’s teeth and jaws change and grow quickly. Therefore, treatment is not usually necessary. However, if you have concerns about teeth grinding in your child, talk to your dentist about possible causes and solutions.