When life puts you through the grinder, it may result in teeth grinding. I hadn’t realized I was guilty until I heard a popping, clicking sound in my jaw. It didn’t hurt, but the sensation did frighten me. This condition is called bruxism—grinding or otherwise gnashing your teeth.
My dentist recommended a custom mouth guard—this was four years ago, and my old friend is now due for replacement. Truthfully, it doesn’t smell very nice either, even with the help of peroxide. It must get a workout at night—I don’t grind during waking hours—for when I do awake, my jaw feels like it’s run a marathon. It doesn’t hurt, but the muscles feel tight and “tired.”
Other risks and signs of teeth grinding include:
- Worn tooth enamel, and for that matter, worn teeth that may chip or even fracture later. You may notice the bottom or top edges of your front teeth look “uneven.”
- Pain, either headache or earache, and your jaw may hurt.
- Cheek and tongue tissue looks “noshed.” (Hint: You’ve been grinding there, too.)
A recent study shows that teeth grinding may be associated with fluctuations in blood pressure. I believe this, since a relatively “Type A” mind doesn’t rest at rest. I have vivid, sometimes exhausting dreams, so it follows that my jaw will keep pace, keep on keepin’ on and on.
Mind and jaw connection
What are other reasons we grind? Many health care professionals believe it’s mainly psychological, due to anger, stress, anxiety, depression, a competitive or aggressive personality or simply problems sleeping—the latter, of course, may result from all of those aforementioned issues. Grinding may be due to poorly aligned teeth, or result from an unrelated health condition.
If untreated, teeth grinding can later cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. I like WebMD’s definition of this joint and of the syndrome.
“The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head.”
The condition can also later cause arthritis.
What to do
One in ten of us grind, and we need a mouth guard. The first stop should be your dentist, who will do an impression and order from a lab. If you want to “do it yourself” and order your own, here’s a good website. Ideally, you want a custom fit—the boil and insert products don’t really work for me, but may do the trick for you. An improper fit may cause you to gag and dread the whole process, so spend some time researching different alternatives before you buy. Don’t let this bad habit go until it’s too far gone.