Teeth Clenching: How Does it Affect My Teeth and How Can I Stop?
There are many dental habits that have the potential to damage the teeth and increase the risk of oral health complications. One of the most harmful is teeth clenching. Unfortunately, people often clench their teeth while they sleep, so they may not even be aware they are doing it.
Here, dentist Bruce J. Wilderman discusses the clues that may alert his Philadelphia, PA, Bucks County, and Doylestown, PA, patients they are clenching the teeth at night, and offers tips for quitting this habit to preserve the strength and health of the teeth.
How Do I Know if I Clench at Night?
Although some people may clench their teeth during the day, especially if they are stressed or angry, it is far more common for this habit to take place at night, while someone is sleeping. Since teeth clenching is primarily a subconscious habit, most people do it without even realizing it. However, there are some signs that may indicate teeth clenching, including:
- Tired jaw muscles
- Jaw or facial pain
- Noises while sleeping (often pointed out by a partner)
- Frequent headaches
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Dental damage (often pointed out during a dental exam or cleaning)
Why Do I Clench My Teeth?
Once someone realizes they are clenching their teeth at night, they often wonder why they are doing it. There are a wide range of reasons that someone may clench their teeth. Determining the cause of teeth clenching can be useful in eliminating this harmful habit. Some of the most common reasons for night time teeth clenching include:
- Stress or anxiety
- Misalignment of the teeth and/or jaw
- Family history of bruxism (clenching or grinding)
- Certain medical conditions or sleep disorders
Dangers of Teeth Clenching
Teeth clenching is a harmful dental habit. Although the teeth are designed to sustain the force of biting and chewing, grinding or clenching the teeth places them under excess pressure. If clenching is a persistent habit (as it often is), it can gradually wear down tooth enamel and leave the teeth vulnerable to dental damage and other complications. The potential dangers of teeth clenching include:
- Tooth decay
- Root canal infection
- TMJ disorder (a condition that compromises movement of the jaw joint)
- Damaged dental restorations
How Can I Stop Clenching My Teeth at Night?
To avoid the dangers of teeth clenching, people need to eliminate this habit from their life. However, that is easier said than done when most people are not consciously aware of the habit. Relaxation exercises, including yoga and meditation, may help people relieve stress so that clenching is less likely, but often the best way to stop nightly teeth clenching is the use of a mouth guard.
Dr. Wilderman offers his patients custom mouth guards. A mouth guard sits over the top and/or bottom teeth while a person sleeps. The mouth guard holds the jaw in proper alignment and prevents the teeth from rubbing against one another. Because each mouth guard is designed for the individual patient, it fits comfortably and securely, and doesn't interfere with their sleep.
If you suspect that you are clenching your teeth at night, Dr. Bruce J. Wilderman can help you quit this habit and preserve the health of your smile. To learn more about our dental services, send us a message online, or call our practice at (215) 340-1199.