Bruxism Vs. Cavity: How To Tell Which Is Causing Your Tooth Pain

Posted on: 16 July 2018

When you wake up with tooth pain, you may be thinking that you have a cavity. Well, that could be the case, but an alternate explanation is bruxism. Bruxism is grinding your teeth while you are asleep at night. It can cause you to wake with intense pain in your teeth.  So, which of these do you think is the problem? There are a few ways you can tell for sure.

Bruxism Leaves Your Jaw and Face Sore Too

When you grind your teeth at night, you are applying up to(on average) one-hundred-eight to one-hundred-fifty pounds per square inch of force. Since that force is only met with the resistance of your own teeth and not with food, your teeth and jaw are met with that full grinding force. The results are worn teeth and a lot of pain in most of your face from the temporo-mandibular joint through your chin. The pain subsides during the day but may remain achy. If this is what you feel, you may not have a cavity situation.

The Pain from a Cavity Comes on Slowly and Hurts Just Near That Tooth

A cavity develops slowly. The pain you may feel from it starts as a dull ache and grows until the nerve under the affected tooth is pounding with pain. It may seem sudden when you finally really feel it, but that may just be because you were ignoring the dull ache you were experiencing all along.

Additionally, a cavity only causes the affected tooth, and possibly a nearby tooth, to hurt. It will not affect most of your face and jaw unless you also have a massive infection or pus pocket under the tooth. You would know long before that happens that you have a dental problem that needs to be addressed.

Your Dentist Knows for Sure

Of course, you could always visit your dentist. He/she can take a look at your teeth and tell pretty quickly if you grind your teeth in your sleep or if there is a dark spot on a tooth that indicates a cavity. X-rays would confirm the presence of a cavity, too.

If no cavity is obviously present, your dentist may prescribe a special mouth guard to wear at night while you sleep. If you wake up with almost no pain, or no pain at all, after wearing the mouth guard, it is bruxism causing your pain. If the pain grows worse even while wearing the mouth guard, your dentist would need to take a second look at your teeth to find a missed cavity or root infection.

Contact a local dentist for more information.