Many people grind their teeth when they are angry or stressed but some people do it unknowingly, during sleep. The medical term for this condition of teeth grinding is bruxism. Bruxism needs to be treated as soon as possible because the force generated during teeth grinding is such that it can lead to severe dental problems. Below are five signs that could indicate you are grinding your teeth at night.
Often, the person with bruxism does not realize he or she has this problem unless someone else points it out. If your partner complains that you make clicking or chattering noises with your teeth when asleep, it could be an indication of teeth grinding at night.
If you notice that a tooth or some teeth appear dented or chipped, it could indicate you are grinding your teeth during sleep. This is because a tremendous amount of pressure is exerted on the teeth, leading to a breakdown of the outermost layer of the teeth called the enamel. This exposes the inner yellowish dentin and your teeth appear to have lost their normal shape and appearance. You may also observe that your ability to bite food is reduced and you have developed oral cavities or loose teeth.
A feeling of tenderness or pain in the jaw is yet another indication that you may be grinding teeth in your sleep. The repeated stress to which the jaws are subjected results in wear and tear of the jaws. Teeth grinding also causes fatigue of the muscles responsible for the movement of the jaws and this can lead to severe pain in the jaws and even the ears. If you observe this pain as soon as you wake up in the morning and find that the intensity decreases as the day progresses, it can be a strong sign that you are grinding your teeth at night.
The repeated grinding of teeth in sleep puts a lot of pressure on the jaws as well as facial muscles. In turn, this can trigger headaches upon waking up in the morning. Just like the jaw pain, the headache too tends to reduce after some time, allowing you to distinguish it from a tension or migraine headache that last for much longer.
If you have sleep bruxism, it often reflects as a change in your facial appearance. When the teeth wear out, they grow shorter in length and this causes the mouth to close differently, with the jaws now lying closer to each other. As a result, the skin distribution around your eyes, cheeks and lips changes, causing you to look older. In some people, the overuse of the jaw can lead to an enlargement of the muscles of the face, making their jaws appear squarer in shape.
If you observe any of these signs, it is time to consult a doctor or a dentist to identify if you suffer from bruxism. Dealing with this at the earliest is important before it leads to long-term damage of the teeth and jaws.