Bruxism is a habit where you grind your teeth or clench your jaws often unknowingly, especially while you are sleeping. Symptoms often include headache, in the temple area or sore jaws when you wake up. Bruxism can cause teeth to break or crack and can increase gum problems. Adults are not the only patients that have this problem, children as young as preschoolers have been shown to frequently clench their teeth.
Researchers do not know what causes people to clench their teeth. In children, bruxism can be a sign of anxiety or social withdrawal. With adults, the condition is very often associated with stress, or a bite alignment issue. Adults who clench often started doing so as a child. Nail biting in children can often lead to clenching as well.
Tobacco and alcohol use may also increase a clenching habit when you are sleeping, along with large amounts of caffeine. Some medications and illegal drugs may cause users to grind their teeth or clench at night.
If you are experiencing headaches in the morning or the middle of the night, have trouble sleeping, or wake up with sore jaws, your dentist can make you a custom night guard that will relax your jaw muscles and protect your teeth from wear, cracks or breakage. Your dentist is able to see signs of wear on the biting surfaces and gum line of your teeth, (a condition called abfraction).