Bruxism, teeth clenching and grinding, can be very destructive to your teeth and your restorations. It can also lead to more serious problems in the future, including temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD). For many people, bruxism happens in your sleep, which can make it hard to know that you’re doing it. 

It’s important to watch for the signs of sleep bruxism and get help if you think you might be clenching and grinding your teeth at night. Here are some signs of sleep bruxism to watch for.

People Tell You That You Grind Your Teeth at Night

woman with jaw pain from nighttime teeth grindingIf you have a sleeping partner that isn’t getting a good nights rest, and they are telling you that you grind your teeth at night, don’t ignore them. Take it seriously. 

You should also pay attention if they tell you that you grunt, snore or choke in your sleep. These symptoms could be related to sleep apnea, and the two conditions are sometimes closely related. Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition that needs to be considered an emergency

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your airway collapses at night. To try to hold your airway open, your body clenches your jaw, which can help you keep breathing, but it can badly damage your teeth and jaw, not to mention stressing your jaw muscles.  Tooth damage could create the need for a major dental restoration like a dental implant.

You Wake with Jaw or Tooth Pain

Another sign that you have sleep bruxism is waking with sore teeth and jaw. The constant clenching can put pressure on your teeth, causing them to be tender and sore for a long time after the outside pressure stops.

Jaw pain for teeth clenching can be felt in the bone as a dull ache, or perhaps it’s in the joint, where it might be achy or a sharp, electric pain. Most often, though, the pain is felt in the jaw muscles, which are achy and tense. Remember, jaw muscles extend throughout the facial area, all the way up to your temples, so jaw pain is often described as face pain. Sometimes people confuse it for sinus pain. 

You Wake with Grit in Your Mouth

Finding grit in your mouth is a common sign of tooth damage from bruxism. As you are clenching and grinding your teeth, you are breaking off small pieces of enamel, which is a natural glass. It feels like sand in  your mouth. 

The mouth is very sensitive to objects like this in your mouth, so it doesn’t take a lot to make you aware you’re experiencing this. The biggest danger is that you might ignore it because it doesn’t feel like much. Take even a small amount of unexplained grit in your mouth seriously. 

You Wake with a Headache, Neck Ache, or Ear Symptoms

Clenching and grinding your jaw doesn’t just damage your jaw. It stresses many other adjacent systems, which means that you can wake up with pain in other parts of your body. A headache could be directly caused by jaw tension because your jaw muscles extend up to your temples. But it could also be tension in partner muscles that work with your jaw. 

It’s also important to know that a morning headache is a common symptom of sleep apnea, so you need to take this symptom seriously and track down the true cause. 

Neck muscles also work with your jaw muscles, and they are commonly stressed when you are clenching and grinding your jaw. 

The relationship between the jaw and the ear is complicated. Sometimes people report ear ache, but it’s actually the jaw joint that hurts, since it’s so close to the ear. Other times, it could actually be the ear that hurts. Or you might experience other ear-related problems, such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or vertigo. Most people experience these types of ear symptoms when they develop TMJ, and many experience them with teeth clenching and grinding.

Neuromuscular Dentistry Offers Relief

There are many potential solutions to sleep bruxism. A dental evaluation can help you figure out the exact cause of your teeth clenching and grinding. It can also point you in the direction of the proper treatment for you. Often, neuromuscular dentistry is the best approach, providing instant relief of symptoms and long-term protection for your teeth and jaws. 

If you are looking for relief from sleep bruxism in Naples, Fl or surrounding areas, please call (239) 597-7333 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at the Massa Dental Center.