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  • Anderson Family Dental

Nighttime Teeth Grinding

Do you wake up with headaches, tired jaw muscles, and sore, sensitive teeth? You may be grinding your teeth at night while you sleep! Nighttime grinding can cause a host of problems with your teeth and gums. It can create chronic headaches, stiff neck, and even problems with your back muscles. If you think you may be grinding your teeth at night, we may be able to help!


woman in pain from teeth grinding

HOW TO TELL IF YOU GRIND YOUR TEETH AT NIGHT

Nighttime grinding can be tricky to recognize. After all, it happens while you’re asleep! However, there are a few key ways your dental team at Anderson Family Dental can determine if you might be grinding your teeth at night.

  • Your partner complains about it. For many patients, the first thing that tips them off that they’re grinding their teeth is a complaint from their spouse or partner. Tooth grinding can be loud! If your partner complains about snoring, noisy breathing, squeaking, creaking, crunching, or chomping noises, it’s a pretty good indicator that you may grind your teeth at night!

  • You wake up with headaches. Tooth grinding puts a lot of strain on muscles that surround your skull, leading to tension headaches. In fact, this muscle strain can even create a stiff neck and pain in the muscles of your shoulders and upper back!

  • Your jaw muscles feel tight or tired when you wake up. Those big chewing muscles on both sides of your jaw get a serious workout when you grind your teeth! You may find them sore, stiff, or tired when you wake up because of the strain. You may also feel like your jaw gets worn out quickly with chewy or crunchy foods.

  • Your teeth ache or feel sensitive, especially in the morning. Grinding can irritate the nerves in and around your teeth, leading to sensitivity. Your teeth may feel sensitive to pressure when chewing, or temperature changes like when you drink ice water.

  • Your jaw clicks, pops, or makes grinding noises when you open and close. In addition to straining your chewing muscles, tooth grinding can strain your jaw joint and even damage the cartilage pad inside the joint. This can manifest over time as painful popping, clicking, or a sandy grinding feeling when you move your jaw.

  • You have a dull pain or ache around your ears or temples on a regular basis. Those tired chewing muscles and strained jaw joints can sometimes manifest almost like a dull earache. If you’ve eliminated the possibility of an ear infection but still struggle with achy ears or temples, talk to your dentist!

OTHER SIGNS OF NIGHTTIME TEETH GRINDING

Of course, there’s more to diagnosing nighttime grinding than evaluating how your teeth and jaws feel. While symptoms of pain, sensitivity, stiffness, and discomfort are very important, there are also clear signs of grinding your dentist can see during routine dental exams. In many cases, patients may not even be aware they grind their teeth at all. Many times, the symptoms may be subtle, or you may be so accustomed to them that you no longer notice them. However, your teeth, jaw joint, and muscles can speak for themselves!


During your initial new patient exam, Dr. Anderson and your dental team here in Winter Park, FL will collect detailed digital diagnostics and thoroughly examine your teeth, gums, and all the surrounding structures that support your oral health, a process they’ll repeat regularly at your subsequent check-ups. In addition to cavities and gum disease, we’ll look for signs of strain on your teeth.


WORN DOWN TEETH FREQUENTLY INDICATE GRINDING

Nighttime teeth grinding sets tooth against tooth. Over time, your enamel will slowly wear away, leading to flattened and short teeth. Wearing on the teeth, called attrition, can weaken your teeth and expose the nerves in your teeth to 


GRINDING CAN CAUSE GUM RECESSION AND INFLAMMATION

Surprisingly, tooth grinding can cause receding gums. The pressure from nighttime grinding can cause your teeth to shift slightly in their sockets, compromising the attachment of the gum tissue and also leading to inflammation in the ligament that surrounds the roots of your teeth. These forces can lead to recession and inflamed gums, which are easily observed during a routine dental exam.


GRINDING AND CLENCHING CAN CHANGE THE SHAPE OF YOUR CHEEKS & TONGUE

Tooth grinding and clenching can pinch the edges of your tongue and sides of your cheeks, changing the shape of the tissue. If your tongue has a “scalloped” border, meaning it looks like it has notches running along the edge or your cheeks have a line of raised, possibly white tissue down the sides, these are both strong indicators that you may clench and grind your teeth.


NOTCHES IN THE TEETH NEAR THE GUMLINE

Just like grinding can wear down your teeth, that pressure and shifting can also cause the teeth to flex slightly at the neck where the top part of the tooth meets the root. That ongoing flexing can wear a triangular notch in the tooth right where it meets the gumline. Also known as abfraction, these notches are frequently seen with gum recession.


OVERDEVELOPED CHEWING MUSCLES

Remember how we said those chewing muscles get a workout at night if you’re grinding? Just like lifting weights at the gym, nighttime grinding can make your jaw muscles bigger! Treating your tooth grinding can sometimes allow your jaw muscles to shrink back to a normal size, which many patients appreciate!


NIGHTTIME GRINDING AND YOUR WHOLE BODY HEALTH

Grinding your teeth in your sleep may indicate other health problems. Most people associate tooth grinding and clenching with stress or anxiety. These are both very common triggers for tooth grinding, but far from the only ones!


Frequently, grinding comes with snoring and other breathing problems. Sleep apnea, or interrupted breathing during sleep, is frequently associated with grinding because your body subconsciously tries to change the position of your jaw to open your airway when you’re struggling to breathe.


Similarly, an uneven bite can lead to grinding as your jaw can’t find a stable position to rest while you’re sleeping. Missing, crooked, and poorly aligned teeth can all add to your tendency to grind your teeth at night.


Other systemic health issues can also cause tooth grinding which may not be limited to nighttime grinding: gastric reflux (also known as GERD), epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other muscular disorders can all cause grinding. Many medications may also cause grinding and clenching. SSRIs, a commonly used treatment for anxiety, can increase clenching and grinding, as can many ADHD medications.


HOW CAN YOU STOP NIGHTTIME GRINDING FROM DAMAGING YOUR TEETH?

Regardless of why you’re grinding your teeth, Dr. Anderson and your dental team at Anderson Family Dental may be able to protect your teeth, minimize damage to your jaw joint, and even help you stop grinding and clenching your teeth.


There are several styles of appliances, like a clear plastic retainer but specifically designed to help with grinding, which you can wear at night. Depending on the specific design, these appliances can protect your teeth, stabilize your jaw, and even minimize snoring!


Botox is immensely helpful in treating grinding and clenching. With a few quick, comfortable injections, we can help your chewing muscles relax and interrupt their tendency to fire with excessive pressure, without interfering with your normal chewing and biting. 


When appropriate, we’ll encourage you to talk to your doctor about treating underlying medical issues such as sleep apnea and breathing issues that may be the root cause of your nighttime grinding. If you think you may be grinding your teeth at night, schedule your next dental check-up to discuss it with your dental team at Anderson Family Dental!

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