Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time. Occasional teeth grinding, medically called bruxism, does not usually cause damage, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis, teeth can become damaged and other oral health complications can arise.

But why do people grind their teeth?

Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress or anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely to be caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. It can also be caused by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

And how do you find out if you suffer from this?

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are not aware that they are doing it. However, a dull, constant headache or jaw pain when you wake up is a telltale symptom of bruxism. Or maybe the person sleeping next to you notices it, and tells you in the morning.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He may examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and excessive wear on your teeth.

In some cases, chronic tooth grinding can result in fractured, loosened, or missing teeth. When these events occur, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even full dentures may be necessary.

Not only can it cause damage to your teeth or even lose them entirely, it can also affect your jaws and even change the way your face looks.

What can I do to stop grinding my teeth?

Your dentist may fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding while you sleep.

If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce stress. Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist, or getting a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered.

Other tips to help you stop tooth grinding include:

  • Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, and coffee.
  • Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
  • Do not chew pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
  • Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you find yourself clenching or refusing during the day, place the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains the jaw muscles to relax.