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Jaw Pain / TMJ

If you’ve ever woken up with a sore jaw or headache, or have noticed that your teeth appear shorter and worn down, you may be dealing with tooth grinding, scientifically known as bruxism. You’re not alone. Millions of individuals deal with tooth grinding discomfort every day, and to make matters worse, most people grind their teeth subconsciously. If not treated, bruxism could lead to unwanted dental problems and necessary dental treatment from your dentist in Sparks. So what causes tooth-grinding and how can you stop doing it? Let’s find out. 

What is Bruxism?

Before we delve into the causes and solutions, let’s grasp the fundamentals of bruxism. Bruxism refers to the habitual clenching or grinding of teeth, often during sleep or subconsciously. This condition can manifest during the day (awake bruxism) or while we sleep (sleep bruxism). While occasional teeth grinding may not raise significant concerns, chronic bruxism can lead to severe dental complications and discomfort.

What Causes Bruxism?

There are a variety of things that can cause someone to grind their teeth, and each person is different. That’s why it’s important to talk to your dentist in Sparks about any symptoms of bruxism. They will help determine the cause and determine the best way to treat it. 

Stress and anxiety are notorious culprits behind many health issues, and bruxism is no exception. The pressures of daily life can lead us to clench our jaws or grind our teeth as a subconscious way of coping. Identifying stressors and adopting relaxation techniques can significantly alleviate bruxism symptoms.

Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and snoring, have been associated with an increased risk of sleep bruxism. The interrupted breathing patterns in sleep apnea can trigger the body’s response to grind teeth, aiming to open the airways. If you suspect you may have an underlying sleep disorder, it’s crucial to seek professional evaluation and treatment.

Malocclusion, commonly known as a misaligned bite, can also be a trigger for bruxism. When the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together harmoniously, the subconscious response may be grinding to find a more comfortable position. Dental treatments such as orthodontic treatments can address malocclusion and reduce teeth grinding.

Certain lifestyle habits such as excessive caffeine consumption, alcohol intake, and smoking have been linked to an increased risk of bruxism. Caffeine and alcohol can stimulate the nervous system, while smoking can heighten muscle tension. Being mindful of these factors and moderating their consumption can help curb tooth grinding.

Tips to Stop Tooth Grinding

  1. Stress Management Techniques

As stress is a major player in bruxism, incorporating stress management techniques into your daily routine can work wonders. Consider practices like meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies to unwind and reduce stress levels.

  1. Nighttime Mouthguards

Nighttime mouthguards, also known as splints or occlusal guards, are custom-fitted devices made by your dentist in Sparks. They put a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth and help prevent tooth damage and ease jaw muscle tension during sleep.

  1. Correcting Malocclusion

If malocclusion is contributing to your bruxism, orthodontic treatment may be beneficial. These treatments can realign the bite, eliminating discomfort and reducing teeth grinding.

  1. Limiting Stimulants

As mentioned earlier, reducing the consumption of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol can have a positive impact on bruxism. Opt for decaffeinated beverages and limit alcohol intake to improve your sleep quality.

Tooth grinding may have been causing you more distress than you realized. By understanding the potential causes and adopting effective strategies, you can regain control over your dental health and sleep quality. Remember to manage stress, consider mouthguards, address dental misalignments, moderate lifestyle factors, and establish a bedtime routine. Put these practices into action, and you’ll be well on your way to saying goodbye to tooth grinding and hello to healthier, more restful nights. 


man grinds teethDid you ever wake up in the morning and notice that your face and jaw are sore? Do you get up in the mornings with unexplainable headaches?  Our dental office in Sparks wants to know if you’ve ever considered that your pain and discomfort could be caused by teeth grinding or bruxism. Read on and see if your smile is at risk because of clenching or grinding…

What Exactly is Bruxism Anyway?

Bruxism is defined as the involuntary habitual grinding of your teeth, mainly while you’re asleep. That’s what makes teeth grinding so dangerous for you and your smile. Many of the 30 million people who struggle with bruxism don’t even know they’re doing it, so they don’t know what signs and symptoms they should be looking for. That’s why it’s important to have a partner like your dentist in Sparks who can see the early warning signs and help you fight your bruxism before it badly damages your teeth.

What Causes Bruxism or Teeth Grinding?

The American Dental Association says there are three big reasons why patients of all ages grind or clench their teeth while sleeping. While we break them down here, ask yourself if any of these could be affecting you oral and overall health.

  1. Anxiety or Stress – This is a big one that so many people can relate to, especially when life is busy and demanding. Worrying or feeling stressed can cause us to tense up making it all the more likely you’ll start to clench your jaw or grind your teeth. It’s important to address your stress before it ruins your smile and your sleep.
  2. Having a Bad Bite – Sometimes when your teeth are out of alignment, it can cause problems with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the surrounding facial muscles. Your muscle can start to spasm during sleep causing you to grind your teeth together in response.
  3. Medical Complications – Some patients who grind their teeth at night could have an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease or even acid reflux. Bruxism is also a side effect of certain prescription medications.

Stop ignoring your pain or masking it with medications. It’s time to call our Sparks dental office as soon as possible before your teeth become damaged or broken. We can give you a comprehensive, thorough exam, learn more about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and monitor your bite. From there, we’ll be able to address the severity of your teeth grinding and put together a personalized treatment plan for you.

woman and dentist examine x-rayAt our dental office in Sparks, we’re often asked what certain technical dental terms mean, and we’re always happy to explain them. Which brings us to the topic of the day: Occlusion. What is occlusion? What are we looking at when we talk about it? Why does it matter? We’re glad you asked!

Occlusion Explained

Occlusion is a simply a fancy name to describe the relationship between the way your upper teeth connect with your lower teeth when you chew, bite, or clench down. More commonly, occlusion is explained as your bite.

What Are We Looking At?

When your dentist in Sparks is evaluating your bite, he or she is looking for any areas where the two sets of teeth don’t line up well. A healthy bite is important for proper chewing, and if a bite is “bad,” the force placed on teeth isn’t distributed evenly. This can lead to several problems and the need for restorations or long-term treatment.

How Does a Bite Become “Bad?”

There are times when people develop a bad bite as they lose their baby teeth and their permanent ones erupt. Most commonly, these are classified as overbites, underbites, or crossbites (more on these in a minute). Other individuals see a shift in their once good bite as they get older thanks to accidents, clenching or grinding, or as a result of teeth shifting when a permanent tooth is lost and not replaced.

Signs of a Bad Bite

There aren’t one or two concrete signs of malocclusion (another fancy dental term used to say bad bite). In fact, there are several symptoms that may indicate an issue including:

If you’re experiencing any of these signs, we encourage you to call our dental office in Sparks. Treatment to correct a bite varies from person to person, so it’s best to evaluate your individual situation and recommend a personalized plan.

bitingYou know the feeling. You’re happily chewing away on your lunch, talking with a coworker when all of a sudden, you hear a crunch. You feel the pain. You realize you’ve just bit your cheek (or lip, or tongue — doesn’t really matter, it all hurts!). This painful accident can be an ongoing problem for many. At our dental office in Sparks, chronic biting of any tissues in the mouth can be concerning. Let’s look at why.

Why is it Bad?

Besides the obvious reason of it hurts, there are a few additional concerns of biting the lips and cheeks. Following a bite, usually a sore appears and lasts a few days. While this isn’t concerning for the occasional nip, if biting is an ongoing problem, sores can become infected. Any infection in the mouth is concerning itself, especially if left untreated.

Why Do We Do it?

Like we’ve previously mentioned, most of the time a bite is accidental and only happens occasionally. If this is the case, there’s probably no reason to be worried. However, when lip or cheek biting becomes a chronic thing, there are a few possible explanations. Most commonly, constant biting is a nervous habit or even done out of boredom, like biting your nails. Other times, there’s an anatomical explanation. If bites are a recurring thing and it’s not because of nervousness, there’s a possibility malocclusion, or a bad bite, is causing the trouble. When the teeth don’t close together neatly, the chance of a cheek or lip getting in between them is high. Additionally, malocclusion can lead to its own problems like headaches, jaw pain, TMJ (temporomandibular disorder), and shifting teeth.  

How To Stop

You don’t have to continue to live with the pain and annoyance of constant biting. Try following the tips below:

Don’t have a dentist to talk to? Give our Sparks dental office a call to schedule an appointment. We’re always happy to help, no matter what your concern may be.