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Have you ever woken up from a restful night’s sleep with a headache or tightness in your jaw? Maybe you reach for an aspirin and go about your day only to have the headache or jaw tension return the next morning. If this sounds familiar, you could be a bruxer.

A bruxer is someone who has bruxism, which the dental term used to describe clenching or grinding of the teeth. If you’re thinking, “No way. I would know if I did that.” Think again. Colgate reports that between 30 and 40 million Americans have bruxism and most don’t even realize it. Bruxism usually goes undetected until your dentist points out the wear on your teeth.

But this unconscious clenching and grinding of the teeth doesn’t just happen at night, which is known as sleep bruxism or nocturnal bruxism, it can also happen during the day.

Since most people don’t realize that they have bruxism, let’s discuss some common causes and symptoms to be on the lookout for, as well treatment options.

Teeth grinding causes

It’s not completely understood what causes bruxism, but some of the common reasons for clenching and grinding your teeth are thought to be:

  • Feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration

  • Malocclusion, which means having a misaligned bite

  • Stimulants like tobacco, caffeine and alcohol

  • Sleep disorders

  • Hyperactive and competitive personalities

  • Age, as bruxism declines when you get older

What are symptoms of grinding your teeth?

How do you know if you clench or grind your teeth? There are many symptoms of bruxism that you can experience. Some are short-term, but others can have long-term effects.

  • Headaches or pain in your temples

  • Poor sleep quality

  • Flattened, fractured or chipped teeth

  • Teeth that are worn down to the nubs

  • Tooth mobility or lose

  • Receding gums

  • Pain or soreness in the face, jaw or ear

  • Jaw tension or pain

  • Tooth sensitivity

  • Worn down enamel

  • Scalloped tongue (presence of tooth indentations along sides of your tongue)

  • Abrasions on the inside of your cheek

  • Jaw joint disorders (such as TMJ)

  • Popping or clicking in your jaw

Keep in mind that not everyone will have the same symptoms or even pain.If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms of bruxism, it’s strongly encouraged to make an appointment with your dentist to get checked out. Left untreated, the repeated grinding and clenching can cause severe complications over time. Seeing your dentist is the only way to determine the severity of your bruxism and recommend appropriate treatment.

Treatment for teeth grinding

When you go in for a dental exam, your dentist will be able to tell if you clench or grind your teeth due to physical symptoms mentioned above, such as how your teeth are wearing. If you’re experiencing any other symptoms, such as jaw tension or poor sleep quality let your dentist know. Being transparent about what you’re experiencing will help ensure you get the right treatment. Although there isn’t a cure for bruxism, there are measures you can take to prevent further damage to your teeth.

For example, after evaluation, if it’s believed your bruxism is due to stress; your dentist may recommend counseling or relaxation techniques to help relieve it. If your bruxism is believed to be caused by lifestyle choices like excessive caffeine intake, you may be asked to avoid or cut back on it and other stimulants.

However, the most popular treatment for bruxism is a night guard to wear when you sleep. Your dentist will take impressions of your top and bottom teeth and create a custom-fit plastic tray for you to wear. You’ll only be given one tray to wear, either for your top or bottom teeth depending on what your dentist recommends, but a top tray is most common. The night guard works by serving as a protective barrier between your top and bottom teeth, preventing them from directly touching.

Does dental insurance cover night guards?

If your dental insurance provider doesn’t cover night guards or if you’re unable to afford a custom night guard, you can also buy a boil and bite night guard from the drugstore. Keep in mind that although boil and bite night guards are a fraction of the cost, they may not fit as securely or comfortably or be as effective as a custom night guard.

Another option to get an affordably priced custom night guard is with a dental savings plan. Dental savings plans help offset your out-of-pocket expenses by offering discounts between 10% and 60% off the cost of most dental procedures, including ones that dental insurance won’t cover.

If you think you may be a bruxer after learning about the symptoms of grinding and clenching your teeth, give your dentist a call. But first be sure to check out how a dental savings plan can help with your dental costs.

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