Teeth Grinding and Your Health

Over the years, several of my patients have come to me with symptoms of chronic earache, headache, sore jaw, or not sleeping very well.  Though these symptoms can be associated with many medical conditions, bruxism, or chronic teeth grinding, is one problem you may not be aware of.  That’s why I’d like to talk to you about chronic teeth grinding and the damage it can do to your health.

Bruxism:  What’s Grinding You?

 Chronic teeth grinding – formally known as bruxism – is a condition in which you continually clench, or grind, your teeth.  This can happen during the day, without you being aware of it, or during your sleep.  Your dentist often diagnoses the condition when the condition of your teeth makes it apparent that you are grinding your teeth.  The condition can also affect your inner mouth structures, jawbones, and ears.  The effects can be mild or severe depending on how often, or intensely, you grind, or clench, your teeth.  Here are some common symptoms:

  • Worn, flattened, chipped teeth, or fractured fillings, damage to crowns, bridges, etc
  • Increased tooth sensitivity, facial pain
  • Soreness/tightness in the jaw muscles, chronic aching/tiredness of the jaw, damage to the bone, or nerves around it resulting in TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome.
  • Chronic earaches or headaches in which no other medical cause is found
  • Damage to tissues from chewing on the inside of your cheek
  • Your partner can hear you grinding your teeth as you sleep

What Can Cause Chronic Teeth Grinding?

If you chronically grind your teeth, it’s a good bet that something in your life is “grinding” you.  Stress, anxiety, worry are some of the most frequent causes of this condition.   Life situations that may cause you to suppress anger or frustration can also contribute to the problem.  Other aggravating factors can include:

  • Hyperactivity disorder;  aggressive, combative personality disorders
  • Too much caffeine, or alcohol, during the day, especially near bedtime
  • Misalignment of upper and lower teeth.  Did you recently have a filling that may not have been fitted properly?
  • Complications of certain neurological disorders like Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease
  • Side effect of some psychiatric medications – antidepressants – or recreational “upper, speed” types of medications

What Can You Do To Stop Teeth Grinding?

Even though your medical doctor may assess if your jaw, ear, or headache pain is from chronically grinding your teeth, your dentist can assess any damage to your teeth or dental work.  You may even be referred to a sleep specialist for a PSG – polysomnogram – sleep study.  This can tell your doctor/dentist if you’re also grinding and clenching during your sleep.  You may also need a certain type of x-ray called a Panorex to determine TMJ damage.

Bruxism is often treated by wearing a mouth guard during sleeping to stop the nightly grinding.  During the day, try to become more aware when your jaw starts to feel tight or sore.  You’re likely clenching your jaw then.  Placing the tip of your tongue between your front teeth can help relax your jaw.  The more aware you become of grinding/clenching, the easier it is for you to stop doing it.  Here are some other things to note before your visit:

  • Write down any medications, as well as herbal, vitamin supplements, that you take
  • Honestly assess how much caffeine or alcohol you drink daily
  • Are there any major issues in your life that are causing stress or suppressed anger?

Bruxism is often a temporary condition caused by life stressors.  However, it can cause some long-term damage to your teeth and jaw bones if it’s not diagnosed and stopped.  Reduce stress in your life by exercising more and solving the problems fueling it.  Talking to a friend, or counselor, can help. Cutting down caffeine and/or alcohol consumption will also help.

Stay Well,
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.


About Dr. Mark Rosenberg

Dr. Mark A. Rosenberg, MD Dr. Mark Rosenberg received his doctorate from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1988 and has been involved with drug research since 1991. With numerous certifications in several different fields of medicine, psychology, healthy aging and fitness, Dr. Rosenberg has a wide breadth of experience in both the public and private sector with particular expertise in both the mechanism of cancer treatment failure and in treating obesity. He currently is researching new compounds to treat cancer and obesity, including receiving approval status for an investigational new drug that works with chemotherapy and a patent pending for an oral appetite suppressant. He is currently President of the Institute for Healthy Aging, Program Director of the Integrative Cancer Fellowship, and Chief Medical Officer of Rose Pharmaceuticals. His work has been published in various trade and academic journals. In addition to his many medical certifications, he also personally committed to physical fitness and is a certified physical fitness trainer.
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