Bruxism is the medical term for clenching or grinding your teeth during sleep. Teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, but is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth.

At Davenport Dental Group in Laredo, TX, our dentists know what to look for to determine if you are grinding your teeth at night.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:

  • Teeth that are fractured, chipped, flattened, or loose.
  • Teeth grinding or clenching. (Your sleep partner may notice the sound.)
  • Worn tooth enamel, which exposes deeper layers of your tooth and cause sensitivity or pain.
  • Jaw pain or soreness.
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles upon waking.
  • An earache-like pain that is actually not a problem with your ear.
  • Headaches.
  • Some sore spots where you chew the inside of your cheek.
  • Indentations on your tongue.

What Causes Bruxism?

Doctors don’t completely understand what causes bruxism in some people. Some reasons include:

  • Having anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, or tension
  • Having an aggressive or hyperactive personality
  • Sleep apnea
  • Response to pain from an earache (or teething in children)
  • Acid reflux
  • As a side effect of some psychiatric medications, such as certain antidepressants
  • A coping strategy or focusing habit
  • Complication resulting from a disorder such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
  • Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)

One of our dentists at Davenport Dental Group can detect the signs of bruxism. If it’s related to a bad bite, we can fix it. If it’s for one of the other reasons, and we can’t address the core issue, we can provide a bite guard that will minimize the negative effects on your teeth if you’re grinding every night.

There are some risk factors that increase your risk of developing bruxism:

  • Stress. Anxiety, anger, and frustration can lead to teeth grinding.
  • Age. Bruxism is common in young children, but it usually goes away by the teen years.
  • Personality type. Having a Type A personality type (aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive) can increase your risk of bruxism.
  • Stimulating substances. Using tobacco, drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol, or illegal drugs such as methamphetamine may increase the risk of bruxism.

In most cases, bruxism won’t cause serious complications. But if it’s severe, bruxism may lead to:

  • Damage to your teeth, restorations, or crowns
  • Tension-type headaches
  • Damage to the jaw
  • Facial pain
  • Disorders that occur in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), located just in front of your ears

Some of the most common TMD symptoms include face or jaw pain, headaches, a clicking sound when you open or close your mouth, a jaw that gets stuck or locked, tender jaw muscles, trouble chewing or biting, face swelling, and a sudden change in how your upper and lower teeth fit together.

What Your Dentist Will Do

During your regular dental exam, we’ll check for physical signs of bruxism. We will continue to look for changes in your teeth and mouth over the next several visits. This lets us see if the condition is progressive and determine whether you need treatment.

If we suspect that you have bruxism, we will try to determine its cause by asking questions about your general dental health, medications, daily routines and sleep habits. We’ll ask questions like:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What worsens your symptoms?

To evaluate the extent of bruxism, we may check for:

  • Tenderness in your jaw muscles
  • Damage to your teeth, the underlying bone and the inside of your cheeks. We will use X-rays to help detect this damage.
  • Broken or missing teeth or poor tooth alignment. Poor teeth alignment is called malocclusion.

Malocclusion can be caused by a number of reasons, including:

  • Loss of teeth, naturally or through extraction
  • Chipped teeth
  • Jaw injury
  • New fillings, crowns, bridges, or dental appliances
  • Braces or retainers
  • Tumors of the mouth or jaw

If we need to replace teeth or repair crowns or bridges, we’ll do that. We may also have to repair irregularly shaped teeth by reshaping or adjusting them down.

Lastly, we may create a mouthguard to help stop the grinding or clenching and protect your teeth from damage.

If you suspect that you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep, make an appointment at Davenport Dental Group and we’ll check you out. Call one of our Laredo, TX offices:

Junction Drive: 956-242-6745

Winfield: 956-517-2695

You can also use our online form to contact us.