Whether you call it Bruxism, Teeth Grinding or TMJ Pain, clenching and grinding your teeth at night causes symptoms that can be painful and distracting, and sometimes disabling. A long list of ailments can potentially be tracked back to this common night-time affliction that affects more than 60 million Americans.
Do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, or exhausted when you wake in the morning? Studies show that roughly 8% of the population suffers at one point or another in their lifetime from teeth grinding. When your body prepares for sleep, it begins relaxing all muscles, your jaw included. Unfortunately our jaws are very heavy and as your relaxing muscles let it fall, it begins to block airway passages. Researchers have found that some forms of teeth grinding are the result of trying to open airways again, alleviating one problem, but causing another.
Teeth grinding irregularly rubs our upper and lower teeth together and can have harmful effects, such as worn and/or fractured teeth. The damage can be severe, with studies showing that 10% of teeth grinders may reduce their teeth to nubs and require reconstructive surgery.
It's not always the pillow causing a sore and stiff neck! While teeth grinding puts a ton of pressure on your jaw, the clenching and gnashing back and forth causes your neck muscles to tighten, as well. The constant movement puts an added strain on these muscles, causing both irritation and inflammation, leaving to wake up with a tight and uncomfortable neck.
Normally a good nights’ sleep is the best remedy to a headache, but if you suffer from teeth grinding, this can actually be the cause of the pain. Our lower jaws are connected to the temporal bone at the base of our skull. When we eat a meal or chew a piece of gum, the motion is only temporary and does not normally cause any problems. But a whole night of grinding rubs the bone relentlessly, often causing a deep and dull headache that can persist for hours.
Do hot and cold foods cause your mouth discomfort? Grinding can wear down the enamel on your teeth, allowing the dentin to be exposed. Dentin is the middle layer of our teeth and consist of hollow tubes that lead to your nerves. Without the enamel to protect it, we are leaving those nerves vulnerable to everything we eat and drink, causing a painful zap whenever we sip a hot coffee or slurp a frosty milkshake.
Four muscles are used whenever you chew something, causing your whole face to move with it, from your cheeks to your ears. So it’s no surprise that constant chewing or grinding at night can result in a tender and sore face in the morning. If you find yourself waking up with dull and achy pains underneath your eyes or around your ears, teeth grinding may be the culprit.
Did you know that when your jaw overworks, other muscles in your body make up for it, known as “muscle recruitment?” When teeth grinding tires out your jaw, muscles in your neck pick up the slack, and when they are exhausted, your shoulders begin to work instead. This can cause you to wake up with stiff and sore shoulders who just pulled an all nighter!
We know that our jaws, neck, and shoulders can be overworked, but did you know that teeth grinding can cause back pain as well? We’ve discussed how muscles who are overworked recruit other muscles to take over and when the jaw, neck, and shoulders have been used up, our backs come to the rescue. So when you find yourself with back pain, don’t try to stretch, instead, open up your mouth and take a look inside!
Partner Sleep Disturbance
Has your partner ever told you that your sleeping wakes them up at night? Along with painful side effects, teeth grinding can be loud as well, leaving both you and your partner sleepy in the morning. Some have reporting that the sounds coming from a grinders mouth can be mild like a chattering, but some more severe cases have been reported to sound like the person is crunching on crackers!
Did you know that our jaws biting force can equal up to 250 lbs per square inch? That’s enough to crack the shell of a walnut! Teeth grinding causes this weight to be pushed onto our upper and lower teeth throughout the night. When this much force is pressed upon our jaws, it can cause fractures, chips, and even cracked teeth. Fractures can appear brown in color, which cause many people to go to the dentist thinking this is the result not brushing regularly.
While tinnitus is a common side effect of teeth grinding, doctors are unsure how the two are linked. One theory is that the nerve supply from our jaws are connected to parts of the brain that are involved with hearing and listening. The constant movement of our jaws overwork these nerves, causing damage with hearing. Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but has also been described as a buzzing or clicking sound and can affect one or both ears.
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