Some of us have nervous habits, such as tapping our foot, twirling our hair, or cracking our knuckles. We don’t even know we’re doing these things most of the time unless someone points them out.
Sometimes these nervous tics can lead to health issues. Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, also known as bruxism, can cause hypersensitive teeth, aching jaw muscles, headaches, changes in your bite, tooth wear, or damage to crowns and fillings.
There are two main types of bruxism. One occurs when we’re asleep and the other when we’re awake. People who clench or grind their teeth during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea.
You may have bruxism and not know it until complications develop. It’s important to know the signs that you’re grinding your teeth so you can get proper dental care. Signs include:
Treatment depends on the cause. Mild bruxism may not need treatment. If needed, your dentist may recommend a custom-made mouth guard to protect your teeth while you sleep. Your dentist may also encourage you to find ways to relieve stress during the day and relax your jaw muscles before bed. If you have other health problems, they’ll also need to be treated. Sometimes a combination of treatments is best, so your dentist is the best person to guide you.