Do you notice a soreness in your jaw or a dull, yet nagging headache when you get out of bed? Have our Hudsonville, MI, dentists mentioned signs of enamel wear or erosion? If so, you might be one of the many people who suffer from bruxism, but don’t worry, there are ways to alleviate your situation. Here’s some background information on bruxism as well as 4 helpful tips for protecting your smile. Bruxism Uncovered: What Is It? This common condition describes the excessive grinding or clenching of teeth. Bruxism can occur either during the day or at night and sufferers are typically not aware of their behavior until symptoms are felt later on. For example, someone who grinds their teeth at night may wake up in the morning with a headache or tooth pain and not know the immediate cause. Both adults and children can be diagnosed with bruxism which can range from mild to severe. Signs of bruxism can include: \tTooth pain or sensitivity \tPain or soreness in the jaw, neck, or face \tWorn tooth enamel \tFlattened, fractured, chipped, or loose teeth \tDull headaches \tJaw muscles that are tight, tired, or locked \tSleep disruption that often results in fatigue \tLoud grinding or clenching noticed by a loved one Why Do I Struggle With Teeth Grinding? The reason behind a patient’s bruxism is not always clear. Most often, grinding or clenching happens due to stress or anxiety. Other known causes may be alcohol use, cigarettes, caffeine, sleep apnea, or a misaligned bite. Talking with our dentists about your level of stress or lifestyle habits can help uncover the root cause of your bruxism. A more in-depth oral examination will also reveal any damage that has been done as a result of your teeth grinding. Depending on the degree to which you grind or clench, restorative dental procedures, like dental crowns, may be required to strengthen weakened teeth. Most mild cases of bruxism do not lead to additional dental work, but when needed, our dentists will discuss a treatment plan with you. Advice to Help Put an End to Teeth Grinding Whether it’s anxiety induced or the result of too much coffee, bruxism can be treated by our dentists and at home. Here are 4 tips that when practiced, can limit the frequency of how much you grind or clench your teeth. 1. Ask for a Personalized Night Guard This treatment option is best for patients who suffer from nighttime bruxism and grind or clench while asleep. By wearing the custom-made night guard provided by our dentists, you effectively put a barrier between your top and bottom teeth so they can’t touch. Because of this, the act of grinding and clenching becomes difficult. Night guards also help to cushion the jaw muscles if you do clench during the night. When worn, the night guard lessens the tension put on the jaw and prevents pain in the area or loss of tooth enamel. 2. Go Easy On Caffeine and Alcohol While both caffeine and alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, their consumption can increase the risk of bruxism in some individuals. Take note of how much you have on a regular basis and if needed, cut back to avoid unwanted tooth damage, headaches, jaw pain, and more. Be sure to also ask our dentists about having a night guard created to give your teeth added protection while you’re sleeping. This will at least prevent grinding or clenching if you do decide to have an extra cup of coffee during the day. 3. Tune In to Your Unconscious Teeth Habits For those who have a habit of unknowingly grinding or clenching during the work day, try paying attention to when it happens. You might come to realize that you’re clenching a lot when you shouldn’t be and that you have the power to stop if you become aware of what you’re doing. When you catch yourself grinding or clenching, place the tip of your tongue between your upper and lower teeth. Practicing this will train your jaw muscles to relax. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while for this to set in. Just keep trying and it’ll become easier. Your jaw and teeth will thank you! 4. Take Time to Unwind Before Bed Are you more on edge or anxious than usual? There’s a high chance those feelings are spilling over into your sleep and causing you to grind or clench. To relax before climbing into bed, we recommend trying a stress reduction technique. This can be meditation, yoga, listening to music, light exercise, or something else. As long as it puts you at ease and calms you down, it should help you sleep more soundly and reduce your bruxism. Make Necessary Changes for Your Smile Our dentists in Hudsonville, MI, can create a night guard for you to wear while you sleep but also encourage you to give a few at-home methods a try as well. The combination of the oral appliance and lifestyle changes should only positively benefit you. Call Hudsonville Dental today at (616) 209-4024 to schedule an appointment.