The condition, called bruxism, can lead to pain and tooth damage
Three years ago, during the height of layoffs at his company, Ron Carpenter woke up every morning with jaw pain and headaches. After the forth day of reaching for a painkiller, Carpenter’s wife sent him to the dentist, saying she thought he might be grinding his teeth at night.
His wife was right; the dentist diagnosed him with bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding. And like Ron Carpenter, you could be doing this in your sleep and you may not even know it.
Researchers don’t know why some people grind their teeth, but studies suggest bruxism is linked to sleep arousal patterns, brain chemistry, some drugs, alcohol, smoking, stress, anxiety and genetic factors. The condition is more common in children, but you can have it at any age.
The most common symptom of bruxism is grinding, but if you sleep alone, you might never notice this one. Grinding can lead to secondary symptoms, including chipped tooth enamel, jaw pain, morning headaches, swollen jaw muscles and tongue indentation.
Left untreated, teeth grinding can lead to more severe complications, such as tension and migraine headaches; earaches; buzzing or ringing in your ear; tinnitus; sensitive teeth; and worn down, cracked or broken teeth.
There is no cure for bruxism, but it can be treated to minimize the impact on your teeth, jaw, and surrounding muscles.
Your dentist will probably fit you for a nighttime mouth guard, though in some cases, medications are warranted on a temporary basis.