Tooth grinding: Is it normal?


Do you ever wake up with jaw pain, particularly during periods of stress? Do migraines make it hard to function during the day? Does your partner complain that you grind your teeth at night?

If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of sleep bruxism. Sleep bruxism involves the unconscious contraction of the jaw muscles in the absence of chewing and swallowing. The condition may be static (clenching of the teeth only) or dynamic (grinding of the teeth accompanied by light lateral movements of the jaw).

Bruxism may be seen or heard by your partner, or it may be silent but accompanied by pain around the teeth or jaw. It can also be detected through a dental examination. In the latter case, a dental hygienist or dentist checks for signs of heavy wear on the teeth. Patients who suffer from bruxism often deal with stress and chronic anxiety. They typically have a frantic pace of life and have difficulty relaxing. Teeth grinding helps release some of their stress.

The consequences of bruxism on the temporomandibular joint and teeth include tooth and jaw pain (potentially radiating to the neck), migraines, worn down teeth (with or without heat and cold sensitivity associated with enamel loss) and, in severe cases, jaw dysfunction.

Whatever the condition, your dentist will recommend wearing a mouthguard overnight. Mouthguards, which are custom-made in a dental lab from an impression of your teeth, prevent teeth from making contact, thus warding off premature tooth wear. They also allow the muscles to relax considerably, which undoubtedly helps manage pain and migraines. In short, a mouthguard will improve your quality of life.

Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist!