Am I grinding my teeth?
Many people grind or clench their teeth in their sleep, but how do you know if this is something you do if, DUH, you’re sleeping?
If you have ever wondered, or if your dentist has ever asked you if you grind your teeth at night, Here are 9 indicators that will help you determine if you are in fact a potential grinder and/or clencher (aka, a bruxer in more formal dental terms).
1. Do you wake up with a dull headache or an earache?
- When you clench or grind your teeth, your jaw muscles tighten. Since the muscles of the face and skull all work mostly together, this tightness of the jaw muscles can cause other muscles to experience tension and result in a tension headache or even an earache. In some cases, this can also act as a trigger for migraines.
2. Do you wake up with neck and/or shoulder pain?
- When you clench or grind your teeth, you not only tighten your facial and skull muscles, but you also flex your neck and shoulder muscles. You can actually test this out right now. Place your hands on the sides of your neck where it meets your shoulders and then clench your teeth. You’ll immediately feel the muscles of your neck tighten as well. The same is true for the muscles of the upper shoulders. Given this, it’s no surprise that if your jaw muscles are flexed during the night, this would affect your neck and shoulder and cause aches and pains in those muscles as well.
3. Do you often catch yourself needing to stop and purposely relax your facial muscles during the day?
- It’s a very similar feeling to when you’ve been to an important event, and you’ve been smiling all night long, and at the end of the night you feel the tension in your face. You can feel a similar sense of tension and sometimes pain in your facial muscles if you are clenching or grinding your teeth during the day without realizing it. If you sometimes experience this feeling and therefore are a daytime clencher/grinder (which many of us are), then it’s very likely you might be doing this at night as well in your sleep.
4. Do you have jaw pain or clicking in your jaw that is more prominent in the first half of the day?
- If you grind and/or clench your teeth, other than the muscle tension that gets created, a great stress is put on your TMJ (Temporomandibular joint). Your TMJ is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. You can feel it by placing your hands just below your ears and opening and closing your mouth slowly. When you grind and/or clench your teeth at night, your TMJ also works overtime, and you could possibly end up with a sore or noisy TMJ.
5. Do you have overall teeth sensitivity to hot and cold, particularly along the gumline?
- If you are a chronic nighttime grinder/clencher, more than the muscles and TMJ are being affected. Often times, the thinnest part of the tooth enamel along the gum lining will be lost from the microscopic bending back and forth movement of your tooth during grinding/clenching. When this protective enamel layer is gone, your tooth is left exposed and is highly sensitive to hot, cold, and/or touch such as the bristles of a toothbrush. If you find you always have sensitivity, mainly along the gum line, then you might be grinding/clenching your teeth in your sleep.
6. Do your front teeth all look like they are the same length and appear flat?
- Believe it or not, your front teeth are not supposed to be the same length. If all your front upper and lower teeth look like they’ve all been cut along a perfectly straight line, this can be a strong indicator that you are grinding your teeth at night. This perfect straight line is actually caused by your teeth grinding against the opposing teeth and flattening each other out.
7. Do you have a white line on the skin inside of your check?
- You can take your index finger and pull at the corner of your mouth with your mouth slightly open and take a look at the inside of your cheek in a mirror. If you see a white line in the middle of your cheek, this is a likely indicator that you might be grinding/clenching your teeth in your sleep. This white line is called a Linea Alba and gets created when the inside of the check gets affected from the friction of friction of your teeth grinding/clenching against the inside of the cheek.
8. Are the outer edges of your tongue scalloped?
- Open your mouth and stick your tongue out slightly in front of a mirror. If the outer edges of your tongue appear scalloped, this is also a strong indicator that you might be clenching/grinding your teeth in your sleep. When you grind or clench your teeth, you also flex your tongue. When the tongue flexes, it flattens out and pushes against the teeth and picks up the scalloping from the curvature of the teeth.
- Keep in mind, this could also be an indicator of Obstructive sleep apnea. Read here for more information on signs of sleep apnea.
9. Does someone else tell you that you grind your teeth at night?
- Sometimes know your grind your teeth at night is as simple as someone else hearing you and telling you. This one is a very strong indicator that you are grinding your teeth in your sleep.
If you have some of these symptoms and think you might be bruxer, the next best step is to set up an appointment with your dentist for teeth grinding treatment in Lake Forest, CA, 92630. They will most likely recommend a night guard for you. A night guard is a custom-made appliance made just for you that you wear at night. Think of it as a retainer that will cover either the upper or lower teeth.
A night guard does a couple of things. It prevents your teeth from grinding against each other and therefore prevent tooth damage. It also causes your jaw to open slightly because of its thickness which will reduce the amount of muscle tension you might feel in your facial muscles. It will also reduce the stress on the TMJ because of the slight opening it is causing in your mouth.
The truth is, as a dentist we only see some of the indicators that you might be grinding your teeth at night. If the indicators are present and you also experience some of the symptoms, then you would probably really benefit from a night guard. I really hope you have found this information useful and can understand why your dentist might always be asking if you grind your teeth in your sleep.
As always, please let me know what you think and if you there are any other dental topics you would like me to cover. I love reading your comments and am truly passionate about sharing my dental knowledge about Teeth grinding in Lake Forest, CA, 92630. Also, don’t hesitate to visit us if you need mouth guards or night guards in 92630.