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The dangers of grinding your teeth while you sleep

It's not because of your horrible boss at work. It's not the one drink too many you had last night. It's not allergies.

No. That headache you're looking to get past could be attributed to grinding your teeth while you sleep.

It's estimated that up to 16% of people grind their teeth, some out of habit, some unconsciously.

What results from such behaviour are a bevy of issues related to oral and physical health.

Here are seven dangers to be mindful of if you're a nighttime teeth-grinder. Open wide!

Fractured teeth

It's not uncommon for long-term, severe teeth grinding and jaw clenching to cause molars, crowns or fillings to crack. As teeth are exposed to continued stress and friction, they are shaved down, loosened and weakened. Teeth then become more susceptible to full-scale fractures and breaks, necessitating a trip to the dentist and some hefty dental work.

Muscular pain

Not everyone will see the visible repercussions of grinding their teeth at night. Pain may surface in the form of sore jaw muscles and joints.

While awake, we humans are chewing food, slurping coffee, making conversation, yawning and partaking in a host of other oral gymnastics. For those who grind their teeth, though, those muscles never get to rest and recover. The overuse continues through the night, resulting in a round-the-clock assault on facial muscles and tissue. It's no wonder, then, that pain in the jaw, neck, ear and mouth regions might arise each morning.

It can also be easy to chalk that pain up to other events, like general stress or that hard bite you took into that apple the other day. In truth, the underlying cause of your discomfort could be rooted in your favourite (but not really) bedtime activity: grinding your teeth.

Gum recession

As teeth are placed under duress and their core strength undermined, they may change shape and position within your mouth. This can also cause a recession of the gum line as tiny micro-indentions and notches are lodged in the gums surrounding the teeth most directly impacted.

And with gum recession comes the potential for other dangers, like bleeding, sensitivity and infections.

Extra sensitivity and discomfort

Tooth pain doesn't always manifest as a chronic ache. It can be a simple, newfound sensitivity to certain foods or liquids. For instance, content that's acidic or hard to chew may become even more so.

Additionally, a superficial discomfort may become the norm. Many people learn to live with the ordinary aches and pains of their workaday lives as a matter of focusing on bigger things, rather than sweating the small stuff. But the small discomforts can add up, and they shouldn't be ignored.

What was an annoyance yesterday can be a full-blown medical issue tomorrow. All because of teeth.

Sleep apnea

Other dangers that might be caused from teeth grinding include more sinister disorders, like sleep apnea. As the jaw clenches in a torturous night of sleep, it can block air passages critical to providing the brain with needed oxygen.

Excessive, nonlinear snoring, gasps for air and an otherwise sleepless night could be symptomatic of sleep apnea. And while apnea is caused by other factors – namely weight, sleeping position and respiratory or circulatory conditions – it's still an important issue to be aware of for those known to routinely grind their teeth.

Tension headaches

All that clenching, grinding and tightening of the muscles and joints compounds over time and is commonly expressed as tension headaches. These headaches may feel like they originate in your ears or temples, but they're often associated with teeth grinding for nights on end.

Because of this first-line-of-defense misdiagnosis, you might retreat to your medicine cabinet in search of a few over-the-counter pain pills. And they'll likely do the trick – at least enough to get you back to bed. But the morning after – and every day thereafter – the pain may still reside and resurface.

By tracing that headache back to its potential root cause – grinding – you can more quickly alleviate pain and get a restful sleep for once.

TMJ disorders

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are common battlefields of oral pain. Located in front of your ears, these jaw joints can become stressed, overworked and overextended. As such, they may be continually sore or perhaps acutely sore in moments of high anxiety.

What results in some people is a clicking or popping noise when you open your mouth, almost as if something anatomically important is snapping or bending. TMJ disorders of this kind are fairly routine, but they don't have to be, even for people who are predisposed.

Reducing or avoiding teeth grinding will help prevent TMJ issues, luckily.

City Dentists is prepared to help serve all your oral needs. Make an appointment online today or call 04-978-4964.

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