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Teeth grinding is on the rise

These indicators could signal you need to seek help 

DO YOU CLENCH YOUR JAWS OR GRIND YOUR TEETH when you are angry, stressed or while you are sleeping? Repetitive teeth clenching or grinding, known as bruxism, has had a population-wide increase over the past two years, likely because of the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2021, a survey by the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute found 70% of dentists saw an increase in patients who experienced bruxism—a 10% increase from 2020. 

This condition is seen in two forms: sleep bruxism and awake bruxism. Awake bruxism occurs in an estimated 22–30% of the general population and is more often associated with stress and anxiety.

Sleep bruxism can be associated with stress, too, as well as factors like sleep apnea, loud snoring, heavy alcohol or caffeine consumption, or smoking. Sleep bruxism affects about 16% of young adults and 3–8% of adults.

Teeth grinding can result in serious health issues, like fractured or worn-down teeth, cavities, gum disease, tooth loss, or muscular disorders that cause facial and neck pain and impact chewing. 

Because bruxism can occur while sleeping, some people are not aware of it. These signs may indicate whether you grind your teeth: 

  • Jaw pain or stiffness. 
  • Tooth pain or worn-down teeth. 
  • Headaches or neck pain, especially when you wake up. 
  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold. 
  • Indentations along the side of your tongue. 
  • Restlessness during sleep, or difficulty falling asleep. 
  • Sleepiness during the day. 

If you are experiencing bruxism, your dentist can provide a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding at night. You may want to investigate some additional treatments with your physician. Treatments may include getting medication, seeing a counselor or physical therapist, or starting a new exercise routine.

Dental care is important and tackling issues early will help keep your overall health in top shape.

SÂMELA DE PAULA LIMA PEREIRA, D.D.S., is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. 

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