Do You Grind Your Teeth? These 7 Tips May Help You Stop
Teeth grinding may sound like a minor issue, but the habit can cause substantial damage to your teeth and increase your risk of developing a painful condition of the jaw joints known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
What Happens When You Grind Your Teeth or Clench Your Jaw?
Bruxism, the disorder that occurs when you grind or clench your teeth, affects 10 percent of adults and about 15 percent of children, according to the American Sleep Association. Although bruxism often occurs during sleep, some people also grind or clench their teeth during the day.
In some cases, grinders first learn of the problem after a visit to the dentist. Although occasional grinding or clenching probably won't result in pain or dental issues, regular grinding or clenching may cause:
- Damage to Teeth or Restorations. Nightly grinding may eventually crack or fracture teeth, fillings, and dental restorations, such as crowns and veneers.
- New Cavities or Dental Abscesses. Bacteria can enter cracks in fillings, causing tooth decay or even an abscess in the soft pulp at the center of your tooth.
- Eroded Enamel. Dentists can easily diagnose grinding and clenching simply by taking a quick look in your mouth. If you suffer from bruxism, your tooth enamel (the outer layer of teeth) may be worn away.
- Pain. Pain in teeth can occur when enamel erosion exposes the dentin layer of your teeth. You may also wake up with an earache or headache due to your grinding or clenching habit. Chronic bruxism can be a factor in TMD pain. If you have TMD, you may notice pain and stiffness in your jaw muscles and experience pain or clicking noises when you open or close your mouth. Pain can also radiate to your ears.
- Overdeveloped Jaw Muscles. Grinding and clenching give your jaw muscles a workout. Over time, the habits can cause the muscles in your jaw to enlarge.
How to Stop Grinding and Clenching
Once you start grinding or clenching your teeth, it can be hard to break the habit. If your teeth have been damaged due to bruxism, or you're tired of daily headaches, you may want to try a few of these tips:
- Reduce Stress: Stress can cause or contribute to grinding and clenching. If you suspect it's a factor for you, try stress-busting activities like yoga, meditation, or exercise.
- Stay Away from Alcohol and Caffeine. A cup of coffee or a glass of beer at night may increase the risk that you'll grind or clench. It's best to avoid these substances a few hours before bedtime.
- Take Advantage of Reminders. Reminders, whether they're Post-It notes stuck to your laptop or automatic reminders, can help you reduce grinding and clenching. Setting reminders helps you evaluate the position of your jaw. Ideally, your teeth should only touch when you're chewing. If you notice that you're grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw during the day, immediately drop your lower jaw slightly. Apps, like the No Clenching iPhone app, can be helpful. The apps send automatic reminders at pre-set intervals.
- Don't Chew on Pencils or Ice. Gnawing on pen caps or ice cubes not only increases your risk of cracking your teeth but also reinforces your grinding or chewing habit. If you chew on non-food items, now's the time to stop.
- Correct Alignment Issues. Bruxism may be more likely to occur is your teeth aren't properly aligned or you're missing a tooth. Replacing lost teeth and improving bite problems with braces or contouring and reshaping can help. During contouring and reshaping, your dentist removes small amounts of tooth enamel that can cause an uneven bite.
- Try a Nightguard. Your dentist can also fit you with a nightguard, a custom-made appliance worn over your upper or lower teeth while you sleep. Nightguards stop your teeth from touching, reducing pressure on your teeth and jaw. Although over-the-counter versions are available, they may actually worsen the problem if they don't fit correctly. Your dentist creates a mouthguard for you using an impression of your mouth to ensure a perfect fit.
- Embrace the Warmth. Warm compresses or a warm shower or bath before bed can help relax your jaw muscles and relieve stress.
Do you have any of these grinding or clenching signs or symptoms? We can help you reduce your pain and protect your smile. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
American Sleep Association: Bruxism – Teeth Grinding Symptoms, Treatment & Causes
Apple: No Clenching App
Sleep.org: Strategies That’ll Stop Teeth Grinding
The American Dental Association: Do You Grind Your Teeth?