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Grinding Your Teeth continued...

Too much grinding can also cause headaches, muscle pain, and jaw injury.

Many people who grind a lot don't realize they have a problem until a dentist notices tell-tale signs on their tooth surfaces. That's one more good reason to get checkup every 6 months, Iacopino says.

Researchers think stress or anger may lead to tooth grinding. A 2010 study found that people who grind during sleep are more likely than people who don't grind their teeth to report trouble at work, daily problems, and physical problems.

Grinding while asleep may be linked to sleep apnea. Your doctor can test and treat you for this condition.

What you can do: Try to manage your stress. “I tell my patients who have signs of tooth grinding to find ways to relax,” says Declan Devereux, DDS. “Take a walk. Learn to meditate. Avoid stressful or frustrating situations if possible.” If that doesn’t help, your dentist may prescribe a mouth guard or splint, which fits over the upper or lower teeth. Also, don’t lock your teeth when you chew. They should be slightly apart.

Acid and Tooth Enamel Erosion

As tough as your teeth are, they’re at risk when acid levels in your mouth get too high. Acid erodes enamel and causes decay. Certain foods and drinks, along with bacteria that live in your mouth, usually make most of the acid that damages teeth. Enamel can also wear away if you have a condition that brings a lot of stomach acid into your mouth, like acid reflux disease (also called GERD), bulimia, or alcoholism. It can also happen to pregnant women who vomit often.

What you can do: Work with your doctor to treat the condition that’s causing the acid problem. If you’re pregnant and throw up a lot, it might be a good time to get a dental checkup, which doctors usually recommend during pregnancy.

To protect your enamel, cut down on foods and drinks that have a lot of acid, like sodas and citrus fruits and juices. When you do have something acidic, rinse your mouth with water right after you’re done. Brush your teeth twice every day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and try not to brush too hard. Rinsing daily with a fluoride mouthwash also helps protect enamel.