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shutterstock_132960980 Has Los Angeles traffic got you clenching your teeth? How about those strenuous sessions in the gym, at CrossFit, or out running? Sheer determination or frustration are usually what causes people to tense up their jaw. While clenching your teeth from time to time is completely normal, it can become a problem when it happens on a regular basis. Those who habitually clench their teeth often grind their teeth as well, and they don’t even realize they do it because it often happens while they sleep. This condition is known as “bruxism,” and it is often related to stress.

How is clenching my teeth harmful?

Clenching your teeth can lead to problems. First, it can overwork the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), which are the joints that allow you to open and close your mouth. One TMJ is on each side of your head and controls the movement of the lower jaw. They also work together to allow you to chew and speak. When these joints are overworked, it can lead to pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, and even “lockjaw.” Since another muscle used while clenching your teeth extends up into the skull, its overuse can also be the cause of chronic earaches and headaches. Headaches are the number one reason adults miss work. Many don’t know that headaches are often the result of bruxism. If you suffer from chronic earaches or headaches, you may have a bruxism habit of which you are unaware. Be sure to talk to your dentist about any chronic earaches or headaches you are experiencing so she may evaluate you for bruxism. When habitual teeth grinding accompanies habitual teeth clenching (as it often does), the teeth can wear down, crack, chip, or become loose. When this occurs, it can become painful to eat and difficult to speak.

How can I cure bruxism?

The best way to deal with the potential damage to the teeth caused by bruxism is to wear a professionally-made night guard. People often grind their teeth at night, and most don’t even know they are doing it. A night guard stabilizes the biting forces and keeps the teeth in place.

Some other tips to avoid chronic teeth grinding include:

  • Avoid chewing gum. Consistently using your jaw muscles when you are not eating or speaking will get them used to the constant motion, thus increasing the likelihood of involuntary clenching.
  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol, as grinding tends to intensify after consumption.
  • Do not chew on anything that is not food. This includes biting your nails and using your teeth to open packages.
  • Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth during the day by resting the tip of your tongue between your teeth.
  • Help your jaw muscles to relax by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek before you sleep.

How can I fix damage caused by bruxism?

Dr. Jamie Elizabeth Sands can fit you with a professionally-made mouth guard to prevent bruxism from ruining your teeth. If damage has already occurred, Dr. Jamie Sands offers plenty of treatment options that can restore and even strengthen your teeth. Bonding can correct cracks or chips, but porcelain veneers are the best option for tooth restoration, as they can also correct misalignment and gaps that may be causing other problems.

If you suspect that bruxism is the cause of some of your dental concerns, Dr. Jamie Elizabeth Sands can diagnose and treat this condition at her Studio City practice. To schedule an appointment, please call (888) 824-7718 or fill out our online contact form today.