Teeth Grinding: An Overview
Teeth grinding is a common and usually harmless condition. Most people grind their teeth occasionally. However, regular, unconscious teeth grinding can severely damage your teeth and jaw, and often leads to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. The exact cause of bruxism is not clear, although a variety of factors can contribute to the condition, including stress or anxiety, an abnormal bite caused by missing or crooked teeth, or even disorders such as sleep apnea.
Although some people grind their teeth habitually during the day, most patients do so at night. As a result, many people are unaware of the condition until a loved one or their dentist alerts them. Common symptoms include:
- Constant, dull headache
- Sore jaw
- Excessive wear on the teeth
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Earache-like pain
- Damage to the inside of the cheek
- Indentations on the tongue
- Locked jaw that you cannot open or close completely
In most cases, bruxism is mild enough that no treatment is required. However, severe cases can lead to fractures and cracks, loose teeth, heavily worn teeth, and tooth loss. The stress that regular grinding puts on your TMJs can shift your jaw alignment and cause the joints to swell. This can lead to discomfort in and around the jaw, grinding or clicking when you open your mouth, and unexplained pain in the shoulders and neck.