Teeth clenching and/or grinding is a very common habit, affecting millions of Americans during sleep. This subconscious habit is almost impossible to stop because it occurs when you are not awake and able to address it. Teeth grinding can lead to serious damage to the teeth, so if you do have this habit, you need to know it.
This week’s article features some of the things you may notice if you clench or grind your teeth heavily while you are sleeping.
You Wake Up With a Headache
The increased muscle tension caused by heavy clenching or grinding often leads to headaches. The muscles that close our upper and lower jaws together are skeletal muscles. This means that, just like the other skeletal muscles in our body, when we overwork them, they become sore.
There are several different muscles involved in clenching and grinding the teeth. They can all become sore when overused. The largest of these muscles are the masseters, located on the sides of the face just in front of your ears, and the temporalis muscles, which extend from the lower jaw up onto the temples. These are the chief culprits in headaches caused by clenching or grinding. If you are waking up with headaches, especially in the temple region, you might be grinding your teeth.
You Wake Up with Sore Teeth
All of that increased muscle force doesn’t just make the muscles sore. It can make the teeth themselves sore. Teeth connect to the upper and lower jaw bones via a tiny ligament, called the periodontal ligament. This little shock absorber contains nerves and blood vessels. When someone clenches or grinds, it causes heavy pressure on this ligament, which can lead to inflammation. Inflammation = sore teeth.
Some people will notice this soreness when they are chewing, and others may feel it throughout the day when they press the upper and lower teeth together.
All of Your Teeth are Sensitive
Similarly, the pressure on and inflammation in the periodontal ligament space can also cause sensitivity in the teeth. The teeth are hollow, with nerves and blood vessels inside. This tissue, called the pulp, can also become inflamed. It is this inflammation that causes sensitive teeth.
There are many different causes of tooth sensitivity, and it is important to see a dentist to investigate the reason your teeth are sensitive. You must rule out progressively worsening dental disease.
If your teeth are all generally sensitive, teeth clenching or grinding could be the cause.
Your Jaw Muscles Feel Enlarged
Just like other skeletal muscles, our jaw muscles will increase in size when we “work them out.” Heavy clenching and/or grinding, over time, leads to hypertrophy (enlargement) of these muscles, just like consistent arm workouts will enlarge your biceps.
You can test this by placing your hands on your jaw muscles, just in front of your ears. Begin with your mouth slightly open and relaxed. Then squeeze your teeth together. If you feel the muscles drastically bulge outward, you have jaw muscle enlargement, and you are probably grinding your teeth.
You Feel a Callous on the Inside of Your Cheeks
This one is more difficult for people to detect. Most people think that whatever they feel inside their mouths is “normal.” Those who have a callous on the inside of the cheeks typically do not even notice it until someone else points it out. Or if they do notice it, they assume everyone has the same phenomenon.
The lining of the cheeks is supposed to be smooth. When you clench and/or grind your teeth, you cause friction against the inside of the cheeks. Over time, this friction leads to a thickening of the tissues as a protective mechanism, a.k.a. a callous.
You might feel it with your tongue. If you are not sure, you can also pull your cheek to the side and inspect it with a mirror. If you see a relatively straight white line on the inside of the cheek, you are probably grinding your teeth while you sleep.
More Questions about Teeth Grinding? Call Rockland Dental Today!
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today at (845)-259-2500 or contact us to schedule a consultation with our dental experts. We can answer all of your questions about teeth grinding and its effects. We will also perform a thorough evaluation of your mouth and jaws to assess your current risk for teeth grinding.