Have you ever woken up in the morning to a dull headache or a sore jaw? It’s quite possible you were grinding your teeth while sleeping!
You may be doing it without realising it, and you wouldn’t be alone, because teeth grinding is one of those things that can happen without realising it. Not only can teeth grinding damage your dental health, but it can also indicate sleeping disorders.
Most people have experienced the uncomfortable sensation of grinding teeth at least once in their life, so it’s important to be aware of what it is and what it can lead to, answering the question we’ve all asked before: is it normal to grind my teeth?
What is teeth grinding?
Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is the involuntary habitual clenching of the teeth, typically during sleep. Teeth grinding can be the result of stress, concentration, and laboured breathing through sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea.
During sleep, clenching and grinding can be difficult if not impossible to control. When you’re repeatedly waking up in the morning with obvious signs of grinding, consider a nighttime mouthguard, or a small appliance made to reduce snoring, both of which can be fitted and explained by your local National Dental Care dentist.
Alternatively, if you catch yourself grinding your teeth during the day, there are measures you can take to control this habit including relaxation exercises such as meditation, or in general, making a conscious effort to keep your teeth unclenched when at rest.
What can teeth grinding lead to?
Whether you do it during the day or night (or even both), teeth grinding can result in broken, chipped, or fractured teeth and can permanently damage your oral health. The damage grinding and clenching can cause might later on require the fitting of crowns, dental implants, or fillings, and can lead to other issues later on down the track.
For instance, the unintended grinding of teeth can lead to a worn down enamel increasing tooth sensitivity, while the continued clenching of your jaw can lead to muscle and joint dysfunction, as well as chronic facial pain.
Long-term damage to the jaw through teeth grinding can lead to TMD, a disorder of of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), also known as jaw locking and jaw clicking. Treatment for conditions related to TMJ may involve more than just your dentist, leading you to see other health specialists, including that of physiotherapists, chiropractors, and GPs, making it a more serious condition to develop into.
On top of all of this, teeth grinding may be a consequence of breathing disturbances including Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). When the airway is partially or fully blocked, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea causes muscle spasms due to the lack of oxygen reaching the brain, resulting in a severe disruption to sleep and can contribute to teeth grinding during sleep.
Is it normal to grind my teeth?
Depending on the type of teeth grinding occurring, it may be a habit worth discarding, or something you are unintentionally doing that can harm you.
On the whole, teeth grinding is a habit many children and adults experience in their lifetime, but irregular teeth grinding is actually fairly normal and usually doesn’t cause harm. Only when teeth grinding becomes more regular and often while we’re sleeping can it damage our teeth and increase the risk of long term oral health problems.
If you’re worried about the possibility of grinding your teeth and you wake up with a dull ache from your jaw, soreness, or something that feels like an earache, it’s time to head to your local National Dental Care practice to find out if you’re exhibiting the signs of teeth grinding.