Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a condition that often goes unrecognized and untreated. Since it frequently occurs at night, you may not even be aware that you're grinding your teeth. But the damage to your dental and general health can be severe. This relationship goes both ways – sometimes bruxism will cause or worsen a condition, and sometimes other health conditions can cause bruxism.
The following are conditions that have been linked to bruxism:
5. Sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea can often go on for years before it's detected. In fact, it's estimated that as many as 80 percent of cases are undiagnosed. But one clue that you may have obstructive sleep apnea lies in your teeth.
If you grind them at night, it could be a sign that your airways are partially obstructed. Experts think that as your breathing becomes more difficult, you may grind your teeth as unconscious attempt to reopen the airways.
Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaws has been linked to tension and migraine headaches. If you're grinding your teeth in your sleep, you may also be more prone to headaches as a result of sleep loss and disturbances.
3. TMJ disorder
Bruxism can damage the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the temporal bone to the jawbone. This can cause pain in your jaw, face, and neck, as well as jaw popping or clicking. You may have trouble opening your mouth fully, or you may have just the opposite – your jaw may lock. You can also have earaches and even hearing loss if the disorder is very severe.
2. Dental damage
The force of your jaw causing your teeth to repeatedly grind together can result in up to 900 pounds of pressure on your teeth. In contrast, clenching your teeth deliberately only puts about 150 pounds of pressure on them. Nighttime grinding can lead to small cracks in your teeth, which can lead to nerve damage. Bruxism can also cause broken fillings and loose teeth. Your teeth may eventually be worn down to stumps.
In some cases of bruxism, stress is thought to be a contributing factor. In fact, during the recent recession, dentists reported seeing more stress-related grinding in their patients, particularly among middle-aged men. This can be a vicious cycle, since bruxism may cause you to have sleep that's less restful or suffer from headaches, both of which can cause more stress.
A dentist can often detect evidence of tooth grinding and suggest any appropriate treatment, such as splint and mouth guards or dental correction. He or she can also refer you to other specialists if needed. To learn more, or if you have other questions about your own situation, try contacting a professional like Robert W Fornalczyk DDS for help.