Why Grinding One's Teeth Causes Toothache

patient with mouthguard

Toothache is an extremely common problem that will affect most of us at least once in our lifetime. The pain experienced in episodes of toothache can range from a chronic dull ache that can stop us sleeping, to sharp, piercing pain that causes us to wince or yelp. Most toothache is caused by damage or decay to the teeth, and once restorative dental treatment has taken place, the pain abates. However, there is another common cause of toothache that affects around 10% of adults in the U.S. – teeth grinding.

Why Do I Grind My Teeth?

Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is a habit that is largely either subconscious or unconscious. This means that you are unaware of doing it while you are awake or are doing it while you sleep. While intermittent clenching of the teeth is harmless, persistently clenching and grinding your teeth can have a very damaging effect on your teeth and jaw bones.

The most common cause of bruxism is stress or anxiety. This is because if we feel anxious or stressed out, we naturally tense our bodies. This includes our jaw. Then when our jaw moves while we sleep, our teeth grind against one another.

Other reasons believed to attribute to teeth grinding include problems with the alignment of your bite, missing or crooked teeth and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can also cause a person to develop bruxism.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

In addition to toothache, the following are also common signs that you may be grinding your teeth:

- Teeth that seem flattened and not as sharp as they should be

- Teeth that look eroded or worn down

- Waking with a headache on a regular basis

- Pain in the jaw, face or neck

- Pain that feels like an earache, despite there being nothing wrong with your ears

- Damage to the soft tissue inside your mouth from biting your cheeks

- Lock jaw

- Teeth that seem loose

- A face that seems tight when you first wake up

- Waking with clenched fists. This is because stress or anxiety often manifests in other clenched muscles as well as in the jaw.

Why Does Grinding One’s Teeth Cause Toothache?

There are two main reasons why grinding one’s teeth causes toothache. The first is that it puts stress on the teeth and jaw. This strain can cause the patient to develop aches and pains in the face, neck and jaw.

The second reason why bruxism causes toothache is because of the damage that it can cause to your teeth. Some of the greatest damage occurs to the enamel of the teeth, which quickly gets worn down, exposing the dentin underneath. This can cause extreme sensitivity, particularly to hot and cold foods and drinks. Other damage that can occur includes fracturing the teeth, eroding the sharpness of the bite, increased decay and even tooth loss, all of which could cause pain and discomfort, as well as affecting the physical function of the teeth. Damage to teeth that is caused by bruxism can make restorative dentistry procedure such as root canal, crowns, bridges and even dentures or dental implants necessary.

Treatment for Bruxism

If you believe that you may be suffering from bruxism, you should arrange an appointment with our dentist, who will be able to perform an examination of your mouth and make a formal diagnosis. In many cases, dentists actually diagnose bruxism before a patient realises that they are suffering.

If you are diagnosed with bruxism, our dentist may recommend a variety of treatments including the use of mouth guards or dental splints while you sleep, and relaxation treatments. In cases where the bruxism is believed to be caused by problems with your bite, orthodontic treatment such as braces or Invisalign may be recommended.