If you’ve been waking up with a sore jaw and aren’t sure of the cause, suffer from frequent headaches that begin near your temples, have pain around your ears or wake up feeling like you haven’t slept soundly you may wonder if you’ve developed a virus or have an infection of some sort. The actual cause may be something you hadn’t considered: bruxism, also known as teeth grinding.
More Obvious Teeth Grinding Signs
Most people suffering from facial pain and headaches don’t immediately suspect that grinding teeth may be the culprit. If your pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms though, it’s time to ask your dentist to evaluate you for bruxism.
- Enamel is worn
- Teeth are chipped, flattened or fractured
- Sensitivity to cold, heat or sweets
- Trouble closing or opening your jaw completely
- Your partner has complained you grind at night
Teeth Grinding Sounds Innocuous but Can Cause Severe Tooth and Jaw Damage
Even though tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, it is still prone to damage. Teeth grinding and clenching not only wears away at enamel, it also can crack your teeth and cause a painful jaw misalignment known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Fortunately, a skilled dentist can repair damage from teeth grinding using myriad dental tools including implants, overlays and crowns. As with most medical and dental issues though, preventing damage is always easier, less stressful and less expensive than repairing damage.
Wearing a Night Guard is One Effective Way to Prevent Tooth Damage Due to Grinding Teeth
Arguably the best line of defense against bruxism-related tooth damage is to wear a dental night guard while you’re sleeping. Dental night guards are designed to fit firmly yet comfortably in the mouth (so the person wearing it won’t have trouble falling asleep). A night guard serves two functions. First, it makes it much more difficult for someone to grind his or her teeth and clench the jaw muscles together. The appliance “retrains” the jaw muscles to remain still at night. Mouth guards also prevent tooth damage by providing a protective barrier between the upper and lower bridges. If the wearer does continue grinding his or her teeth, tooth enamel will not be damaged.
Tooth grinding is a common problem in children and adults. Early intervention is important to mitigate tooth damage.