Jaw clenching: symptoms, solutions, and advice

Officially known as Bruxism, teeth grinding and jaw clenching can have serious consequences

Involuntary patterns of jaw clenching and teeth grinding is known by dentists as bruxism. The level of bruxism a child or adult experiences can vary throughout their life, and occurs mainly while you sleep but to a lesser extent when awake.

“Many people are unaware that they’re grinding their teeth — often it’s a spouse or parent who hears your teeth grinding first,” says Dr. Michael Dolynchuk, dentist and owner of Dolynchuk Dental Center in Red Deer.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism

  • Aching teeth or jaw upon waking up. If you clench your jaws while you sleep, you may notice symptoms when you first wake up. If you clench your jaws while awake, symptoms may be more noticeable later in the day.
  • Headaches, earaches and facial pain.
  • Fractured teeth, tooth sensitivity or the feeling of loose teeth

Bruxism risks

“Grinding teeth can wear down your tooth’s enamel, exposing the dentin underneath. Enamel is a pristine white colour, but dentin is typically a pale yellow — so grinding your teeth can lead to discoloration,” Dr. Dolynchuk says.

Teeth grinding can also cause teeth to chip or break, creating new areas for food to collect. These areas may be difficult to reach with a toothbrush or floss, leaving more time for the tooth decay process to take place.

“Decay happens any time the bacteria in plaque is allowed to feed on the sugar in our food, acidic areas are created which can lead to cavities,” Dr. Dolynchuk says.

Treatment options

If you notice signs of bruxism, tell your dentist right away — even if you’re not sure what’s causing it. Only your dentist has the education and expertise to diagnose and treat your symptoms.

If you’re grinding your teeth while sleeping, your dentist may recommend a custom mouth guard. If grinding is caused by misaligned or missing teeth, your dentist may want to address those underlying issues. Stress also causes many people to clench their jaws. Finding ways to reduce stress may help relieve symptoms.

For more information, schedule an appointment at Dolynchuk Dental Center. Find the clinic atdolynchukdental.ca, and at6845 66 St., in Red Deer’s new QEII Wellness Centre. Call 403-309 2167 to make an appointment.

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