Unlike most adults, you don’t snore. You’ve never sleepwalked. And you don’t talk in your sleep. You’ve had the good fortune to escape all the nasty little nocturnal habits that afflict others. Or have you?
If you find yourself waking up with a sore jaw or even a headache, and your teeth seem to be getting more sensitive to heat and cold, you may very well be a nighttime tooth grinder.
Called bruxism, tooth grinding afflicts up to 50 percent of the population. If you have bruxism, you clench your teeth when you sleep and grind them together. Since you can bite up to six times harder when you’re sleeping than you can when you’re awake, this can cause a lot of damage if not corrected.
Some of the effects of bruxism are:
- pain and damage to the gums and teeth;
- sore facial muscles, headaches and earaches;
- teeth so ground down they become shortened;
- the enamel can wear away, causing teeth to become more sensitive to heat and cold;
- the pressure from grinding can fracture teeth and crack fillings; and
- damage to the TMJ, which is the small joint that connects the lower jaw to the upper jaw allowing you to chew and talk.
If you think you may be grinding your teeth, you should make an appointment to see your dentist. You’ll probably be fitted with a custom mouth guard you can wear to bed, which will take the brunt of the pressure that would otherwise be directed at your unprotected teeth. Don’t delay. See your dentist today.