Teeth clenching and grinding, called bruxism by doctors and dentists, can be more than just an unconscious habit. It can cause serious damage to your teeth and might be linked to conditions like sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD)

Sometimes teeth clenching and grinding don’t need treatment. Other times, it’s important to see a doctor or dentist for help with the condition. We’ll help you understand the condition and when it’s important to seek professional care. If you are looking for bruxism treatment in Minneapolis, neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kevin Bril at Brilliant Dentistry can help. 

young adult woman holding her jaw in pain

Two Types of Bruxism

Doctors and dentists generally recognize two different types of bruxism: awake and sleep. These aren’t just different because one happens in the day and the other happens at night. They have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. 

Awake bruxism is usually linked to strong emotions such as stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, and others. It might also be habitual when you focus intensely on an idea or task. 

Sleep bruxism may be related to sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea. However, this isn’t always the case. 

People can have both types of bruxism. Left untreated, bruxism can have some serious complications. Sometimes, these complications develop after noticeable symptoms. Other times, you might not notice the symptoms until you have developed complications. That’s because the symptoms aren’t related to bruxism itself but come from the complications. 

Are You at Risk for Bruxism?

Although you might notice your habit of clenching and grinding your teeth, some people might not. As an unconscious habit or coping mechanism, awake bruxism often goes unnoticed. With sleep bruxism, people often don’t notice it until a sleep partner points it out–or until complications become evident. 

Recognizing risk factors can help you identify bruxism and seek help from a Minneapolis neuromuscular dentist before you develop complications. Here are some of the most important risk factors: 

  • High levels of stress and anxiety
  • Aggressive or competitive personality
  • Family history of bruxism
  • Medications like antidepressants
  • Smoking tobacco
  • High alcohol consumption
  • High caffeine consumption
  • Use of drugs like ecstasy and cocaine

Age is often listed as a risk factor since bruxism is common among children. However, childhood bruxism often passes as children grow up. It is less likely to require treatment. 

Symptoms and Complications of Bruxism

Your bruxism might cause:

  • Jaw pain
  • Face, neck, and shoulder pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Worn, chipped, or cracked teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Loose or drifting teeth
  • Biting your cheek and tongue
  • TMJ
  • Earaches
  • Ringing in the ears, dizziness, or vertigo
  • Sleep disruption

Bruxism can cause pain in your jaw, face, neck, and shoulders initially because it stresses your muscles. Eventually, this pain may be related to other causes, such as stress on or displacement of the jaw joint. It might also be related to pinched nerves. Headaches might be related to muscle strain since your jaw muscles stretch up to your temples. Headaches might also be linked to pinched nerves. Migraines could be triggered by stressed muscles, pinched nerves, or overloaded nerves. 

Bruxism can badly damage your teeth. It can wear them down. You might notice that your teeth have grown flat and are now all the same height, where they used to be rounded and of different heights. If you’re not sure what your smile looked like, check old pictures for comparison. You might also see craze lines–small vertical cracks in your teeth. The biting surfaces of your teeth might become a different color than the sides of your teeth. That’s because the tooth enamel is worn from the biting surface. Other times, you might notice the grit from worn or cracked teeth in your mouth. 

Loose and drifting teeth might be linked to gum disease, but if your gums seem healthy, bruxism is a more likely cause. 

Ear symptoms are common in TMJ. About four out of five people with TMJ experience ear-related symptoms. If you start developing ear problems linked to teeth grinding, it’s a sign that the effects are spreading beyond your jaw. 

Sleep disruption might be linked to bruxism or to sleep problems that cause bruxism. 

Bruxism Treatment

The best bruxism treatment depends on the type of bruxism you have. 

For awake bruxism, the best treatment is often psychological. Try to reduce your stress, anger, and other emotions that lead to teeth clenching. If you clench your teeth when working or concentrating, use reminders to help yourself check whether you’re bruxing and stop yourself. Of course, these are all easier said than done. Successful treatment of awake bruxism often relies on assistance from a therapist or counselor. If therapy doesn’t stop your bruxism, a bite guard can reduce or eliminate damage to your teeth. 

For night bruxism, you should start by getting a sleep test for sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, look for treatments that can address both conditions. If you don’t have sleep apnea, a sturdy mouthguard will protect your teeth from damage. 

For both types of bruxism, a Minneapolis neuromuscular dentist can help determine whether TMJ contributes to your condition, or if it’s developed as a result of your teeth clenching. TMJ treatment can help eliminate secondary symptoms like jaw pain, headaches, and more. 

If bruxism damaged your teeth, restorative dentistry can help you regain your healthy, attractive smile. A Minneapolis restorative dentist can build up damaged teeth using dental crowns or porcelain veneers. They can use orthodontics to straighten teeth that drifted out of place. In the case where teeth are too damaged to restore, an implant dentist can replace them. 

Help for Bruxism in Minneapolis

Do you have or suspect bruxism? If so, let Minneapolis neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kevin Bril help. He can help you track down the cause or causes of bruxism, recommend treatments, and repair damage from clenching and grinding. 

For help with your bruxism, please call (952) 944-2052 or use our online form to request an appointment at our office in Eden Prairie.