If you wake up each morning with a sore jaw, there is a good chance it's from clenching your teeth while you sleep. This is a very common condition and is referred to as bruxism. If you have a severe case of bruxism and leave it untreated, it can lead to a variety of other problems. Here are three things you should understand about this condition.

What causes it?

Clenching of the jaw is something that people do unknowingly while they sleep; however, some people do this while they are awake too. This condition can be the result of stress, alcohol use, caffeine, and tobacco. These are just some of the causes. However, researchers are not exactly sure what all of the causes are. Around 10% of adults suffer from this, while around 15% of children have it.

What problems can it lead to?

When you repeatedly clench your teeth while you sleep, it can affect you in the following ways:

  • Jaw issues – Constant pressure on your jaw can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. This condition is not only painful, but it can prevent you from opening your mouth wide and can leave your jaw feeling tired while chewing food.
  • Teeth issues – Bruxism can also cause your teeth to wear down, and this can leave them smaller and oddly shaped.

The best thing you can do if you suffer from this is talk to your dentist about treatment options.

How is it treated?

There are a variety of different ways to treat bruxism. Your dentist might suggest placing a warm compress on your jaw each day. The warmth from the compress can loosen and relax your jaw muscles, and this may stop the muscles from tightening when you sleep. Another option you could try is changing certain things in your lifestyle. For example, if you smoke or drink alcohol, try cutting those things out for a few weeks to see if this helps improve the situation.

If these things do not help, your dentist could create a custom mouth guard for you to wear while you sleep. This product will keep a small gap between your teeth all night long, and this will prevent you from grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw.

Finding a treatment option that helps you stop clenching your teeth is important if you want to live pain-free and have healthy teeth. To learn more, contact a general dentist today like Stephen J Vanyo DMD PA.