The technical name for tooth grinding is bruxism. Stress is certainly one of the factors that can lead to grinding. A sleep disorder, an abnormal bite or crooked or missing teeth also can be factors.
The best person to talk to if you or a loved one has this condition is your dentist. It can be a serious problem. Some people who grind their teeth in their sleep may wake up feeling fine. Others, however, may wake with some combination of jaw, shoulder and neck pain. The grinding action also can significantly wear teeth and loosen them. In severe cases it can crack tooth enamel and chip or break teeth.
During sleep, bruxism can cause a person’s jaw to clench at pressure up to six times the level exerted during waking hours. Your dentist will first try to diagnose the cause of the condition. If it is stress related, the result, say, of pressure at work, the dentist may recommend physical therapy or counseling. Muscle-relaxing medication and/or a nighttime mouth guard, specially fitted by the dentist, may be an answer.
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