A lot of people at one point or another grind their teeth. If it’s not an ongoing habit, teeth grinding can be completely harmless but if it’s done on an ongoing basis, it could cause damage to your teeth and expose you to other dental complications.

What causes bruxism?

Teeth grinding is normally a reaction to stress and a response to anxiety. But the majority of teeth grinding happens during sleep and results from having a poor bite, crooked teeth or when some of your teeth are missing.

People with sleep disorders like sleep apnea are also known to grind their teeth in their sleep.

How to know if you grind your teeth

Since grinding mostly happens during sleep, you could go for years or even your whole lifetime without knowing whether you grind your teeth. There are however ways to tell whether you grind your teeth. For instance, if you find yourself waking up with a dull and consistent headache, or with sore jaws, this could be a sign that you grind your jaws in your sleep. You can also ask a loved one for their opinion.

If your loved one confirms that you usually grind your teeth or if you usually wake up with a headache and sore jaws, go for dental examinations.

The dangers of teeth grinding

If your teeth grinding is chronic, this could result in fractures, loose teeth or tooth loss.  It’s possible to wear down your teeth completely if you suffer from chronic teeth grinding. You will then end up having to replace most of your teeth with dentures, crowns, bridges and implants.

Besides excessive tooth loss, which can be devastating, severe teeth grinding will affect the health of your jaws and negatively change your facial appearance.

How to stop grinding your teeth

The measures you take to stop teeth grinding depend on the causes.

  1. One great solution is getting a custom-made mouth guard for protecting your teeth while you sleep
  2. If your teeth grinding is stress related, you should look for ways to minimize stress and anxiety.

Exercising, attending counselling or using prescription muscle relaxers are some options you can use to manage stress and anxiety.

  1. If you have a sleep disorder that’s causing grinding, treating it will help to eradicate the habit.

Other ways to help you stop grinding your teeth

  1. Avoid foods and drinks that are caffeinated, particularly so close to bed time
  2. Stop consuming alcohol, as it will intensify how much you grind your teeth
  3. Avoid chewing gum as it trains your muscles to clench even when sleeping
  4. If you catch yourself clenching or grinding your teeth during the day, place your tongue between your teeth as this will allow your jaws to relax
  5. You can massage your jaws just where they meet at the earlobe or hold a warm cloth against that area to coax your jaw muscles to relax.

Bruxism in children

Children also suffer from bruxism, particularly when they are teething and when their permanent teeth start growing. Teeth grinding in children could be related to poor nutrition, badly aligned teeth and illness. If your child’s teeth look worn or they complain about sensitivity, consult a dentist.