Do you clench your teeth?

Do you clench your teeth at any time of the day? Many people do it unconsciously.  Whether awake or asleep, this difficult to break habit, officially known as bruxism, can have detrimental effects on not only your teeth, but also your overall health. Breaking the habit while awake is not as serious as when asleep because—of course—it’s nearly impossible to break an involuntary action if it occurs while you sleep.

Do you know why you clench or grind your teeth?

And although not everyone that clenches his or her teeth does so for the same reasons, experts site a few, basic indicators as to why this common occurrence affects so many of us.

  • Anxiety and/or stress
  • Depression
  • Earache (often caused by referred pain, or pain that comes from somewhere nearby, but is felt in another place.  The structures of the TMJ are very close to the ear canal, and tooth grinding or clenching can cause pain, as well as temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ disorder or TMD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Medical conditions
  • Headache
  • Tooth sensitivity of sweets and/or temperature extremes
  • Insomnia
  • Sore jaw muscles or painful tight jaw

Side affects exist on those that clench their teeth

And these resultant side effects aren’t the only adverse conditions that can arise if this serious habit isn’t broken; there are numerous, other consequences that can negatively impact your life.  You may already be experiencing some or all of these symptoms and not even realize it. They can include:

  • Chips or broken teeth
  • Jaw pains – As much as 10% of the population experience this each morning upon waking.
  • Chronic headaches – Perhaps the most painful and bothersome effect of bruxism; overly exerted temporalis muscle and facial muscles are the cause.
  • Restricted jaw and facial movements.
  • Recession of your gums – Once this occurs, teeth will become misaligned and major surgery may eventually be required to restore your teeth to normal.
  • Lack of sleep – The dangers of this alone most of us are aware, but should be explored in depth.
  • Relationships are affected – Some relationships have been broken up due to negligence of teeth grinding or clenching particularly during sleeping hours; depriving your partner of the sleep he or she needs.

Dealing with your clenching and sleep bruxism

Clenching is considered one of the sleep disorders and is often linked to sleep apnea. The predisposition to grind and clench has a genetic link. There is no treatment to stop a person from grinding or clenching their teeth. The only things that can be done is managing the forces introduced into your mouth. Behavior modification techniques have had limited success. Muscle relaxants work but severely affect your lifestyle. Protecting your teeth with a mouth guard or night guard is the only way to deal with the chronic abuse.

What are TMJs and how does clenching affect it?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, and TMJ disorder can refer to any of a number of issues that affect one or both of your TMJs. Located in front of each ear, your TMJs connect your lower jaw to the rest of your skull, and allow your jaw to open, close, and move around as needed.

TMD can be caused by a wide array of factors, such as:

  • Injury to the jaw or face
  • Teeth grinding
  • Misaligned jaw
  • Wisdom teeth
  • Stress
  • Poor dental alignment
  • Arthritis

Learn more about what chronic clenching of your teeth does to you

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of clenching, call us for a second opinion.