If you’ve awoken with a sore jaw or your dental health professional has noticed your teeth are ground down or damaged, you may be clenching your teeth during the day or grinding them while you sleep. The condition of subconsciously grinding or clenching teeth is known as bruxism. People who grind their teeth at night are more likely to suffer from other sleep disorders like snoring or sleep apnea.

In cases where a patient may be grinding frequently and strongly enough to cause jaw disorders, headaches, dental damage, or other problems, your dental health professional may recommend a variety of treatments. The choice of treatment may be related to the causes of a patient’s particular case.

A dentist may recommend a splint or mouth guard to keep teeth separated and prevent damage. Constructed from hard acrylic or soft material, the mouth guard is designed to fit over your upper or lower teeth. Sometimes, people clench because their teeth aren’t aligned properly. Tooth wear may lead to increased sensitivity or even problems chewing. Dentists may reshape the chewing surfaces or use crowns. Other treatments may include braces or oral surgery.

If you’re grinding your teeth due to stress, professional counseling or strategies to promote relaxation may help. Behavior therapy may help by guiding you to practice proper mouth and jaw positioning.

Be sure to visit your dental professional regularly to maintain healthy dental habits.