"How do I know if I grind my teeth at night?"
This is a great question that you've asked and is a question that everyone needs to ask themselves. Most experts classify teeth grinding, or bruxism, as a habitual behavior and a sleep disorder. It can get ugly when it causes damage to your teeth, chewing muscles, and jaw joint. It can even change your everday facial expressions, so knowing whether or not you grind at night is a crucial step in preventing disfigurement of your teeth and chronic pain.
The dangerous part is that grinding teeth is a parafunctional habit, so we have no idea that we're doing it. Most grinders and clenchers (or bruxers) do not know what they are doing since they have been doing so since childhood and have grown accustomed to the effects of grinding.
But there are ways you can tell, one of which is just looking in the mirror. I can spot it across the room at a cocktail party; it's the "flatness" of the teeth that gives it away. The teeth of bruxers appear to be the same length, after being worn down by grinding every night.
It's not all about looks, though.
Teeth grinding can cause a whole host of issues in the body.
Most grinders have neck issues or pain in the facial muscles. When chewing gum or chewing beek jerky, their muscles fatigue very quickly.
When a bruxer goes to the dentist and stays open for a cleaning or for a filling, their cheeks start hurting as the chewing muscles tire quickly. The jaw joint may make clicking or popping noise.
Grinders may also suffer from earaches. Grinders may also have an overdeveloped-looking massetter (the major chewing muscle) that bulges out, especially while you chew. Is your face sore when you smile or chew?
Take a look in the mirror at your canine teeth, upper or lower. Are they pointy or are they flat? Are your centrals the same height as your laterals? Flat teeth at any age may mean you are a bruxer.
Teeth grinding also has a genetic component.
Do your parents or siblings brux? Bruxism is yet another trait you can inherit.
If you're a parent wondering if your child is grinding his teeth, have you tried sleeping in the same room as your child for a night? Many parents are shocked after sleeping in the same room as their children to hear the noise their children make as they grind their teeth.
Your partner can help you figure out whether or not you grind your teeth. I have a patient that always complained about a squeaking noise that he would hear late at night that kept him awake. One day I asked him if his wife had ever complained about hearing the noise and he said that she did not. It occurred to me later that day that she was grinding her teeth and making the squeaking noise. I asked her to come in (up until this point I had never met her) and confirmed that she was a grinder. She now wears a night guard at night and both are sleeping well.
Odds are that you a bruxer, as studies indicate that 70% of the population (or 95% if you ask the American Dental Association) exhibit some kind of bruxing behaviour. If you’re young, keep in mind that you might grind your teeth but experience few or none of these symptoms because you are used to the state of being a grinder. Fetuses exhibit bruxing behavior in utereo. So it may be all you know, and seem perfectly normal. I hope this list below gives you some ideas on how to know if you are grinding at night.
To know if you're grinding your teeth at night, ask yourself the following.
* Do you have dreams about teeth breaking or falling out?
* Do you have neck muscle issues?
* Do you have pain in your facial muscles?
* Do your cheeks hurt?
* Do you have earaches?
* Do you have a clicking sound in your jaw?
* Do all of your front teeth look like they’re the same length or they’re flat?
* Do you have generalized pain in the area below the ears?
* Are your parents or siblings bruxers?
* Does anyone else hear you grind at night?
* Does anyone hear you squeak at night?
* Are any of your teeth loose?
* Do you have teeth sensitivity?
* Do you have a white line on the inside of your cheek?
* Do you wake up in the morning with a dull headache?
* Are the edges of your tongue scalloped?
If you experience any of the above, you are probably grinding your teeth. Go see your dentist for help.
- Mark Burhenne DDS