Have you ever woken up feeling like someone punched you in the jaw? Or how about with unexplained headaches or even a loose tooth? You might be grinding your teeth.
Well, first, make sure your partner isn’t exhibiting some REM behavior disorder that makes them flail wildly in their sleep. If not, you might want to ask your dentist about bruxism because it can wreak havoc on more than just your teeth.
We all clench our teeth sometimes (like when we’re tense, for example, and it can even be subconscious). While this doesn’t typically do much harm, habitual teeth grinding can affect your jaw and all the muscles around it, leading to neck and head pain and dental issues.
Bruxism, as the teeth grinding condition is called, can also lead to facial changes (it can even change your facial profile) as you lose, chip, or wear down teeth. It can even cause your cheekbones to drop, making your face look droopy and prematurely aged.
Why we grind
According to The Cleveland Clinic, “Men and women get bruxism at roughly the same rate. If you have a family history of teeth grinding, you may face a higher risk. Other risk factors include:
- Personality type, as people who are very driven may be more prone to teeth grinding.
- Cigarette smoking and caffeine use.
- Certain anti-anxiety medications.”
As you might imagine, bruxism also affects getting a good night’s sleep. So if nothing else, it’s useful to solve the problem so sleep issues don’t cause other problems in your life.
Young children can have bruxism too, and the way they grind teeth it can be caused by anything from allergies to genetics. Often, they outgrow it as their jaws change.
Treatment usually consists of a nightguard, but if you habitually grind your teeth while awake, you may need to train yourself to stop and notice the habit and practice some stress relief techniques.
Two hundred and fifty pounds is a lot of force for a human jaw (most of the time, our molars have about 70 pounds of force, and a strong jaw tops out at about 160 if you’re really trying).
According to the New York Times, “By way of comparison, a well-publicized 1996 study of the tyrannosaurus, done at Stanford, estimated its bite strength ranged from 1,440 to 3,011 pounds, noting that this was fairly close to the power of an alligator’s jaws.”
Now just imagine being a T-rex with bruxism! Ouch. – WTF fun facts