The holiday season can be quite stressful for everyone. We are often left feeling exhausted and still unfinished as the year draws to a close. Our bodies have several different ways of reacting to stress, one of the most common of which being the grinding of our teeth. While everyone, including children, experiences teeth grinding on occasion, others find it a consistent habit, and its motion can cause serious dental damage.
Why Do We Grind, and Why is it Dangerous?
The two most common reasons for grinding teeth are contributed to stress or crooked teeth. Those with an abnormal bite, or jagged teeth, tend to move their jaw often in their sleep. Stress – especially holiday stress – can cause a restless sleep as well, with grinding being one of the many ways in which our bodies attempt to act out of that stress.
If we mostly grind our teeth while we are asleep, how can we tell if we are grinding at all? While it is hard to catch ourselves in the act, there are telltale signs that we grind when we wake up the next morning. A headache or a sore jaw are two of the ways that our body lets us know that we spent the night grinding our teeth. Excessive grinding can lead to the wearing down of the teeth and the enamel. Severe grinding can wear teeth down to little stumps or to nothing at all, and can cause them to loosen and fracture. It can also lead to the development of TMJ dysfunction, which is an inflammation on the sliding hinges of the jaw connected to the cheekbones. This can lead to severe pain, facial restructure, and trouble with chewing.
The Best Preventative Measures for Grinding
If you find yourself grinding consistently, and are waking up with pains or stiffness in your jaw, you may want to seek your dentist for further examination and treatment. Several measures can be taken to lessen the severity of grinding, and hopefully prevent it altogether. If grinding is caused by stress, you can attend physical therapy or find a prescription for a muscle relaxant. This will train your body to stop grinding out of stress, and will help you maintain calm habits.
If you are grinding your teeth more often than just in moments of stress, further dental treatment may be required. Several treatment suggestions include, but are not limited to:
● Visit a dentist for a checkup and further screening. Your dentist will be able to fit you with a mouth guard to wear as you sleep, which will prevent your teeth from being able to grind and will offer some much-needed relief to your jaw.
● Avoid chewing on items that are not food-based, such as cups, pens, and fingernails. Chewing gum and ice cubes are also some of the most dangerous items to chew, especially for those with a grinding problem. By chewing gum, your jaw is trained to clench more, causing it to want to grind more and more often. This can reverse the effects of treatment and cause further dysfunction with TMJ.
● Utilize several different massage methods for your jaw and cheek muscles, rubbing in circular motion around the inflamed area. Using a warm cloth against the muscles can also help relieve it of its clenching habits, which will restrict the need for your teeth to grind.
● Chronic teeth grinding can lead to the need for crowns, bridges, and even dentures to replace the teeth that were being grinded too often. Temporary crowns can also be installed on top of the tooth, protecting it from the nightly grind.