Severe long-term tooth grinding (called bruxism) can wear away your tooth enamel to the extent that you may need crowns or other tooth repairs. Your tooth grinding may not be severe enough to cause wear and tear on your teeth, but brushing and flossing daily helps reduce your risk of complications from it.
Signs of tooth grinding include an achy jaw, headaches and earaches. Tooth grinding is often associated with anxiety, stress and a competitive personality type in adults, especially if it occurs at night. But it also can occur as a complication from another medical problem, or as a side effect of some psychiatric medications (especially antidepressants).
To manage bruxism, try to reduce the stress in your life (easier said than done) and ask your dentist about a mouth guard that you can wear at night to avoid damage to your teeth. You can buy over-the-counter mouth guards at sporting goods stores or drug stores, but these guards may not fit well and they are more likely to fall out at night. If your dentist recommends a customized mouth guard that’s fitted to your teeth, be sure to check your insurance plan. Your dental insurance may cover the mouth guard, or you might be able to use money from a flexible spending account to cover the cost.
Whether you wear a mouth guard at night or not, it’s important to pay attention to good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily to help reduce your risk of complications from tooth grinding. If you do wear a mouth guard, be sure to brush and floss your teeth at night before you put it in.
And, of course, be sure to see your dentist regularly so he or she can check your teeth for signs of wear.