If you grind your teeth while you sleep, you may wake up with a sore jaw, facial pain, or headaches, and you may not realize why. This is a habit that is hard to control because it takes place when you sleep, but it is something that needs to stop. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can lead to a number of problems if you fail to treat it, and here are three things you should know about this common condition.
Why It Happens
Doctors believe that people clench their teeth while sleeping as a defense against breathing issues. When you fall into a deep sleep, your brain sends signals to all the muscles in your body, and these signals tell the muscles to relax. This relaxation of your muscles is good for them; however, the muscles in your jaw do not always follow the signals.
The muscles in your jaw often continue working as you sleep, because if they relax it can cause your airway to close. When your mouth is fully relaxed, your jaw is capable of blocking your entire breathing passage. If this happens, you will not be able to breathe while you sleep. To prevent this from happening, your jaw muscles stay clenched, and this is what leads to you grinding your teeth.
Why It Is Bad
The constant clenching of your jaw puts a lot of stress of your jaw, and grinding your teeth places a great deal of stress on your teeth. If this happens repeatedly every night, you could end up with the following problems:
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) – This is a condition of the main joint in your jaw, and it leads to severe pain in the jaw, ears, neck, and head.
- Headaches – Clenching these muscles too much can also leave you with daily headaches and aching in your neck.
- Teeth damage – You can actually wear off bits and pieces of your teeth if you grind them often. This can lead to shortened teeth, sensitivity in your teeth, and other tooth problems.
- Poor sleep – Bruxism can also cause disturbances in your sleep, and this can leave you feeling tired and irritable.
If you want to avoid any further problems, you should seek help for this problem by visiting a dentist.
Ways It Is Treated
Bruxism can be treated with the use of a mouth guard. A mouth guard is a custom-made device you place in your mouth while you sleep. It is designed to allow the jaw to rest while you sleep, and it also reduces the damaging effects of bruxism to the teeth and jaw. While this method works well for many people, your dentist may want to test you for sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, using a mouth guard is really not enough.
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes the muscles in the throat and jaw to relax too much while sleeping. When this occurs, a person is unable to breathe while he or she sleeps. This condition can lead to a loss of sleep, and it can also lead to high blood pressure and other heart problems.
To find out if you have sleep apnea, you will have to undergo a sleep study. If you are then diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will likely be given a CPAP machine to use while you sleep. This machine forces air into your nose each time you breathe, and it stops the harmful effects of sleep apnea. It may also help you to stop grinding and clenching your teeth while you sleep.
If you are tired of having a sore jaw from grinding, talk to your dentist. This is the best way to find the right solution for your problem.