A new report from the American Dental Association found a 69 percent increase in patients who grind or clench their teeth since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions and public health worries associated with this global phenomenon can mean that people feel more stress. Heightened stress levels can initiate or exacerbate a teeth grinding habit.
This behavior, called bruxism, is not only annoying but can lead to major oral health concerns if it continues. But since bruxism is largely an unconscious act, how do you know if you are doing it? And how can you stop it? Read on to learn more about bruxism and its treatment.
Signs That You Grind Your Teeth
People can grind or clench their teeth without their own awareness. In many cases, they do this in their sleep and do not realize it is occurring. However, there are several ways to tell if you have this habit, even if you do not notice it as it happens.
The grating or clenching of the top teeth against the bottom teeth generates pressure that can extend from the teeth to the jaw. This can make the surrounding facial muscles sore and tense. If you feel this discomfort and have difficulty moving your jaw, opening wide, or chewing foods, then you might have bruxism.
Often, bruxism can lead to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ). So if you notice jaw pain and/or a clicking sound when moving the jaw, headaches, or earaches, you may want to consider contacting your dentist to have that evaluated.
Why You Should Not Ignore Teeth Grinding
Clenching and grinding your teeth will also wreak havoc on your teeth. The outer enamel of the tooth is durable, but constant grating will cause the enamel to wear down over time.
Enamel cannot regrow on its own, so if you suffer enamel loss, you will need restorative dental treatment to repair this damage. A dentist can use a dental crown to replace lost enamel.
Clenching can also lead to tooth or root fracture, necessitating a crown, root canal treatment, or even the extraction of a tooth. Clenching and grinding can also result in the fracture of existing dental work, such as crowns or porcelain veneers, or the unsightly chipping of your front teeth.
Ideally, you should prevent this dental damage by treating your bruxism before further damage is done.
How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth
To address a bruxism problem stemming from stress, you should consider stress relief activities. Some advice your dentist may recommend includes deep breathing and exercising regularly to release tension.
If you grind your teeth in your sleep, your dentist may recommend wearing a night guard or other nighttime appliance, which can help to control the habit and minimize the damage to your teeth, TMJ, and dental work. These appliances can take a little adjustment to get used to wearing, but most patients find that they increase their overall comfort level and even the quality of their sleep.