If you find that you wake up with a headache, jaw pain and sore teeth, chances are high that you may have a habit of grinding your teeth at night, also known as bruxism. Many dentists feel that this habit is caused by stress and anxiety, but to some extent, it can also be caused by misaligned teeth.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition that occurs when a person grinds or clenches their teeth together. It can happen during the day, but usually occurs subconsciously at night when one is sleeping. Unfortunately, this habit can cause teeth to become worn down, fractured or even chipped, making teeth sensitive.
Some people wake up with headaches and jaw pain due to tightness of the jaw muscles with clenching of the teeth. Bruxism can cause temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), an issue that occurs with the chewing muscles of the lower jaw.
Ways to combat this problem
Many dentists prescribe night guards as a measure to prevent bruxism. A clear, hard acrylic guard is worn over the teeth, either upper or lower, to prevent subconscious teeth clenching and grinding.
Making an appliance is easy. Your dentist will take an impression of your teeth and then the dental laboratory can create your own customised night guard. There are over-the-counter plastic guards that are less expensive, but they sometimes do not fit as well and may be uncomfortable. Consult your dentist to determine if you have an issue with bruxism and treatment options.
Since stress is one of the main factors involved in this problem, relaxation techniques can be helpful. Try to quiet your brain before bed. Take a warm, relaxing bath or shower, drink a cup of tea before bed and avoid any caffeine products.
Can children have a tooth grinding habit?
Teeth grinding in children is common, and it can occur from children experiencing stress or issues at school as well as malocclusion of their teeth. If your child is grinding or clenching teeth during sleep or day hours, it is best to have them evaluated immediately. Remember that damage to baby teeth can be fixed, but you want to correct this problem before his adult permanent teeth come in. Also, if your child complains of ear pain without evidence of an ear infection, bruxism may be involved.
With young children, offer a little relaxation before bed to help soothe them. Consider a warm bath for them, a gentle massage, warm milk and a relaxing bedtime story. Older children can also be fitted for night guards by your dentist.
The writer is a dentist