When a little night-time grinding is NOT a good thing!

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Q: I’ve been waking up with jaw pain and headaches lately.  What could be causing this?

A: You’re probably grinding your teeth.  Teeth grinding – or bruxism – is a very common problem. We used to think it was just caused by misalignment of the teeth or jaws, but we now know that it can also be related to stress, anxiety, depression, changes in sleeping patterns and even diet.  Sound familiar?    

So how do you know if you’re a bruxer?  It can be hard to figure out on your own since most of the clenching and grinding happens when you’re asleep.  You could ask your sleep partner or roommate if they’ve ever noticed you doing it.  If that’s a little too weird for you, you could just come in to the student health center and see one of our fabulous dentists – they can take one look at the wear and tear on your choppers and tell if you’re grinding away or not.  Other signs that may indicate you’re grinding your teeth include:   

  • Jaw pain or tightness which can lead to difficulty eating
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Oversensitive teeth
  • Indentions in the tongue or damage to the inside of the cheek
  • Pain in your temporomandibular joint (the area right in front of your ear where your jaw hinges)

If you are a bruxer (we just love saying that word), there are some things you can do to give your jaw and pearly whites some relief:

  • Your dentist can fit you with an oral mouthpiece that will protect your teeth and decrease the amount of tension in your jaw while you sleep.  You can try one of those squishy mouth guards you find at sporting goods stores, but they don’t work as well.
  • Stress reduction can go a long way! The more relaxed you are while you’re awake, the more relaxed you will be while asleep!
  • Warm compresses applied to the jaw can help relax muscles.
  • Jaw exercises can also help to loosen up those muscles!
  • Cutting back on the alcohol and caffeine will also help.

Click here to learn more about bruxism, or make an appointment to see one of the dentists at the Student Health Center.  We’re always happy to help.

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Salvatore Paul Lowry, DDS
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

One thought on “When a little night-time grinding is NOT a good thing!

  1. The best way to deal with Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) is to use a CBCT scan and have an expert oral radiologist look at it. Marcilan (www.marcilan.com) has a team of oral radiologists who are specialized in diagnosing TMJ. Ask your dentist for a referral.

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