Stone mortar and pestleYou wake up in the morning with a headache and your jaw feels like you might have slept on it in an awkward position. You sip your first sip of coffee, tea, water, or juice and wince in pain because your teeth are so tender. You wonder what is going on, and then you remember that you woke in the night and found yourself grinding your teeth.

Teeth grinding, or “bruxism”, is something that millions of people endure. They do it without any real awareness of it and might find themselves doing this harmful habit while awake or during their sleep. While it may seem that the only effects of teeth grinding would be soreness in the jaw and a bit of a headache, there is a lot more to the story.

For example, a dentist can often take only a quick look into someone’s mouth and tell them that they are a tooth grinder. This is because the behavior creates the following signs and symptoms:

  1. Micro fractures in the teeth – These are small breaks that don’t actually make it all of the way through the tooth, but they open up the enamel and leave the tooth vulnerable to serious decay and infection. Some people do eventually shatter or break the tooth because of the grinding;
  2. Unnatural wear to the teeth – Over time all teeth are worn down by eating and chewing, but the teeth of the perpetual grinder will be worn down to a very unnatural degree. Some people have been grinding their teeth for their entire lives and end up with very blunted and almost flat teeth!
  3. Potent headaches in the temporal area – The pain of headaches can also tell the underlying cause. For example, a headache directly over the eyes is often a clue that a sinus infection is present. The headache of the chronic tooth grinder is going to be in the temporal region. This takes its name from the temporal arteries that run alongside the temple and the eyes. Someone with neck, head, arm and upper body pain may be experiencing a reaction from the temporal arteries. When you clench the jaw it tightens the neck muscles and leads to a headache that strikes the temporal area.

So, you can see how destructive it might be to allow yourself to continue clenching or grinding. There are all kinds of reasons that it will occur and if you wake with a sore jaw, catch yourself grinding during the day, and notice that your teeth are suffering, you need to head to the dentist. They can talk about coping, reducing stress, and alleviating symptoms. They can also fabricate custom guards for you to wear at night which prevent the damage and pain from continuous grinding.