Does anyone else grind their teeth at night? How about during the day?
It started sometime last year, around the end of the summer, but I didn’t notice it until September. I’d started waking up with inexplicable headaches that didn’t dissipate during the day. I’d take pain medications, sinus medications, thinking one or the other would fix it.
Then I realized that not only did I have a headache, but my face hurt too, especially my cheeks and my jaw muscles. I realized I was probably clenching or grinding my teeth at night, something called bruxism.
Some people with bruxism unconsciously clench their teeth together during the day, often when they feel anxious or tense. This is different from tooth grinding or clenching that occurs at night, which is called sleep bruxism. Most children who are bruxers do so at night, while adults are either daytime or nighttime bruxers.
Bruxism may be mild and may not even require treatment past a simple TMJ mouth guard. However, it can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems. Unfortunately, people with sleep bruxism usually aren’t aware of the habit, so they aren’t diagnosed with the condition until complications occur. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and to seek regular dental care.
It was probably stress related when it started, since at the time I was somewhat under-employed and we were in the middle of an adoption that eventually fell through. The several months since then have been a slow process of regaining lost ground financially and professionally. Plus, we became parents again, with all the usual stuff that goes with it. So, I went out and got a night guard to wear while I slept, and that seemed to do the trick for a while,
But now I find I’m doing it during the day. I’ll be at work or at home, and I’ll be clenching my teeth without realizing it until I’m in pain. I guess I’m one of those “daytime bruxers.” The problem is, I haven’t found anything similar to my nightguard that I might be able to wear during the day that’s relatively undetectable. I did find something called an NTI-tss device, which I learned about here. But I’d have to get a dentist to fit it for me.
Here’s the problem. I’ve never had a problem with my teeth or their alignment. So it’s most like that the cause is psychological.
In adults, psychological factors seem to be associated with bruxism, including:
* Anxiety, stress or tension
* Suppressed anger or frustration
* Aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type
There is a natural solution.
Handle the stress in your life. You’re more prone to bruxism if you let stress get to you before you get to it–one reason why hard-driving, stressaholic, Type A personalities are particularly susceptible to tooth grinding, says Neil Gottehrer, D.D.S., director of the Craniofacial Pain Center in Abington, Pennsylvania. “Many sublimate frustration or aggression into jaw clenching or tooth grinding.”
His advice: Squeeze a tennis ball when you feel stressed, or practice a regular stress reduction technique such as meditation, listening to music or another pastime that helps you unwind and release stress before it takes up permanent residence in your gut.
But that’s easier said than done. If I could just “handle the stress” in my life then I probably wouldn’t have a headache nearly every day. I’m not a “hard-driving, stressaholic, Type A” personality by any stretch of the imagination. (Almost no one who knows me would consider me a Type A, definitely.) But there are significant sources of stress, anxiety and frustration in my life, much of it suppressed, because if I don’t suppress it then I won’t be able to meet the needs of my family or people I work with.
So, what do you do if the sources of stress and frustration probably aren’t going to go away any time soon? Sure, meditation might help, and doing some yoga might be good. But finding a pastime? The last half of that word is time, and when it comes to use of my time (mind, or body for that matter) a lot of other people have dibs on that, and I seem to be last in line. How or when that’s going to change isn’t something I know right now.
What I know is that my face hurts, and it’s not from smiling.
If it doesn’t get better soon, I’ll be off to the dentist. If I can’t fix the problem right now, at least I can knock out the symptom.