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Do You Grind Your Teeth?

Updated on May 27, 2014

There’s a chance you probably do – and may not even know it. Dentists call it bruxism, but to the layman, it’s teeth grinding. While a lot of people do it during the daytime, some grind their teeth during sleep. Clearly unaware, some develop this habit, which then often leads to such serious problems as headaches, jaw disorders, and permanent gum and teeth damage. What causes it, really, though?

Research holds a long string of psychological and physical causes. In most cases, it’s been linked to stress and suppressed feelings of anger – as grinding the teeth can subconsciously help ease our worries and frustrations. However, it could also simply be the body’s reaction to poor bite and misaligned teeth, complications of face-involving neuromascular diseases, or side effects of psychiatric medications like antidepressants.

Everything you need to know in one infographic!
Everything you need to know in one infographic!

You’re probably wondering:

If I grind my teeth in sleep, then how do I find out I really do it? Number one on the list – and you’ve probably heard stories about this from those whose sleep you’ve disturbed – is that horrendous teeth grinding noise, so horrendous it sounds almost like a cement mixer, running down a chalkboard. If not that, then you’ve probably been experiencing morning headaches, chronic facial pains, and tight jaw muscles. If any of these are quite familiar to you, then it’s high time you took action.

Treatments for teeth grinding depend on what caused it in the first place.

  • Are you stressed? Solution: Try doing biofeedback exercises to help you relax or take muscle relaxant medications to relieve the spasm in your overworked jaw.
  • Think your medication’s doing it? Solution: Have a chat with your doctor about possible side effects and other complications.
  • A neuromuscular disease, perhaps? Solution: Medical problems require professional help, and so your best bet is to speak with your doctor.

On top of all these, dentists often recommend wearing a mouth guard while you sleep to stop you from being able to grind your teeth – that, or they will teach you new mouth and jaw positions for better teeth alignment. Sounds daunting, I know. Then again, there are plenty of other ways to make sure this habit of yours doesn’t harm your oral health.

What are they, exactly?

  • Avoid chewing on anything that’s not food (pens and pencils, yeah?). And while you’re at it, avoid chewing gum, too, as it gets your jaw muscles used to clenching, and you, to teeth grinding.
  • Get caffeine out of your system – by which, I just mean: no more coffee, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolates for you. Sorry, pal!
  • Pass up on alcohol. Why? Because it’s a depressant, which may make getting a good night’s sleep way more difficult. And you know what else? The actual grinding almost always gets worse after alcohol consumption.
  • Let your jaw muscles rest – and you do this by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek. Pretty easy, eh?
  • Train your jaw to relax. The minute you notice yourself clenching or grinding is the exact minute you place the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Works every time!

What do you think causes your teeth grinding?

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Teeth grinding may be a common habit but it’s one of those that you need to kick to the curb as soon as possible. It sure can cause serious damages not just to your oral health but also to your overall well-being. And if you think you can’t deal with it alone, there’s always the dentists, eagerly waiting in their clinics to give some tips and help you out.

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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Interesting. My sister bought a mouth guard (it's cheaper in the Philippines) and now I know why. You really appreciate and miss healthy teeth when you age, as I well know.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I've known people who did this in their sleep. Now, I may have some answers! Great write and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good information. If I do it I'm not aware of it, but you've given me something to think about. Thanks!