We want you, our valued readers, to take good care of your teeth and gums because these are of crucial importance to your overall health. Think about it: When you have increased teeth sensitivity, you can neither eat hot and cold foods well nor brush your teeth without experiencing a flash of pain! We then present you with safe and effective ways how to stop teeth grinding and improve your overall health and oral care.
Why include grinding the teeth in our growing list of resources on teeth hygiene, problems and advice? Grinding the teeth, also known as bruxism, can become cause a wide range of health issues from headaches, damaged teeth, and increased tooth sensitivity to jaw disorders and sleep disturbances. The sooner your case of daytime and sleep bruxism is addressed, the better it will be for your mind and body.
How to Stop Grinding Teeth: Know the Symptoms First
Bruxism is a condition wherein an affected person unconsciously grinds, gnashes, or clenches his or her teeth. The habit may be done while awake (awake bruxism) or while asleep (sleep bruxism). Both types, nonetheless, have similar causes and treatments although we must also emphasize that individualized treatment is a must.
But do you have bruxism as the medical experts define it? If you have these signs and symptoms, then you should consider talking to your doctor or dentist and getting the best mouth guard to protect your teeth.
- Teeth grinding or clenching; the sounds made may be sufficiently loud for your sleep partner to wake up
- Flattened, chipped, or fractured teeth
- Broken fillings in your teeth
- Loose permanent teeth
- Tooth enamel has been worn down resulting in the exposed deeper layers of the tooth
- Increase in tooth sensitivity or pain
- Tight or tight jaw muscles
- Jaw doesn’t open and/or close completely
- Soreness and/or pain in the jaw, neck, or face
- Pain similar to an earache
- Dull headache beginning in the temples
- Disruptions in your sleep or your partner’s sleep
- Damage from chewing the inside of your cheek
Many, if not most, of these symptoms will significantly decrease or completely disappear when the teeth grinding stops. Your dentist will also likely look for these signs and symptoms during your regular dental visits. You may be in denial, for example, about the issue but your dentist can get you out of it and recommend appropriate treatments, if necessary.
Furthermore, if you exhibit any of these signs, your dentist will also look for changes in your teeth and mouth during the succeeding visits. Your dentist will determine whether it’s a progressive condition and determine the need for treatment.
In most cases, mild bruxism will not require treatment because there’s little to no adverse side effects. But if you experience these symptoms, you should see your dentist as soon as possible:
- Your teeth have become sensitive, worn or damaged
- Your face, jaw and/or ear are painful
- Your sleep partner has observed your teeth grinding movements while you’re sleeping
You and your dentist can discuss the best ways how to stop teeth grinding in your case during your appointment. And speaking of your dentist appointment, you are well-advised to be ready to answer questions and discuss your concerns.
You can prepare by writing down these things before your dentist appointment:
- Your relevant medical history including past bruxism-related issues and underlying health issues
- Your symptoms including what these are, when they occur, and how frequently they occur
- Your key personal information, such as recent life changes that may have caused high levels of stress
- Your list of over-the-counter and prescription medications, multivitamins, and dietary supplements including herbs including their dosages; tell your doctor if you’re taking medication or supplement as a sleeping aid
You should also be prepared with your own questions that will shed more light on your condition and provide more information necessary to formulate an individualized plan. The questions should include:
Why do I grind my teeth? (Your dentist will mention several possible causes based on your interview)
What types of tests will I be required to undergo in order to determine the causes?
What are the treatment options possible?
What are the best treatments in my case?
Will there be a need for me to consult with a specialist? (This is in case you have an underlying medical condition or you have complications from bruxism)
What resources are available to help me cope with bruxism?
You and your dentist have to work closely in order to determine whether you may have bruxism or not. Many of its signs and symptoms are similar to other medical conditions so it’s important for your dentist to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
What Causes Teeth Grinding (Daytime or Sleep Bruxism)?
The importance of identifying the teeth grinding causes in each case cannot be overemphasized. Every case is unique, from its set of causes and its type (i.e., sleep or awake) to its frequency and severity. The treatment plan should then be made according to the individual’s specific circumstances and, thus, increase the chances for a successful treatment.
Keep in mind that the cause of teeth grinding can’t always be clearly identified, as it may be in your case. But bruxism is typically linked to a wide range of factors including stress, sleep issues, and anxiety. You and your dentist will then agree on the best possible course of action depending on the set of factors that contributes to your teeth grinding habit.
The most common causes of teeth grinding are discussed below.
Stress and anxiety
Many people who grind their teeth aren’t aware that it’s linked to stress and/or anxiety in their lives. It may be from a traumatic episode in life or a radical life change, such as the knowledge of infidelity, a divorce, or a deep frustration at work. It usually happens during sleep so the affected person doesn’t know he or she has developed the habit.
Certain medications can result in teeth grinding (i.e., a side effect). In particular, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been linked to bruxism; SSRIs are a type of antidepressants used in the treatment of depression, bipolar disorders, and anxiety disorders. These medications include fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline.
Note: Never stop taking your prescription medications, especially for the treatment of mental health disorders, without the approval of your psychiatrist.
This is true even when these medications possibly caused your teeth grinding habit. Your psychiatrist will determine whether you can stop with your medications to switch you to another drug.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing while the affected person is sleeping. It’s the most common cause of teeth grinding, not to mention that it requires appropriate medical treatment as it has several complications when left untreated.
Furthermore, people who do one or more of these things also have higher chances of grinding their teeth at night:
- Talk or mumble in their sleep
- Have violent behaviors in their sleep, such as punching and kicking
- Have sleep paralysis, a condition characterized by the temporary inability to speak or move either while falling asleep or waking up
- Experience hallucinations while semi-conscious
If you think that you may have a sleep disorder or you do these things, you have to ask your sleep partner to make notes about it. Your dentist and/or doctor will use the information in determining both the cause of your teeth grinding and its treatment as well as the treatment for its underlying cause (e.g., sleep apnea).
Teeth grinding, especially among people with sleep disorders, also happens at night due to the body’s natural cycle. Throughout the night, the brain goes through a cycle of lighter and deeper sleep stages (i.e., REM and non-REM). As the brain approaches the deeper sleep stage, all of the body’s muscles relax that, in turn, can cause issues with the airway.
Basically, the jaw becomes heavy causing a blocked airway. The fully relaxed tongue also expands to nearly twice its normal size, which also results in a blocked airway.
Researchers discovered that when people with partially blocked airways (i.e, while sleeping) grinded their teeth, the unconscious movement reopened the airway. In doing so, they were able to breathe normally again.
When the study participants were provided with a tool that will keep their airways open the entire night, their teeth grinding stopped. Plus, the sleep apnea episodes stopped as well. The tool was either a CPAP machine, a device used by sleep apnea patients, or a dental appliance designed to hold the jaw and tongue in place so these don’t block the airway.
Interestingly, sleep scientists have also stated that teeth grinding is among the newest indicators for OSA. In turn, OSA is known to significantly increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, diabetes, obesity, depression, and cancer.
And it isn’t just the stereotypical middle-aged, overweight men and women who are at high risk of OSA! Scientists have also identified new at-risk groups for sleep apnea including petite women, people with long necks, people with anxiety and depression, and children with ADHD and other learning disabilities, as well as people who grind their teeth at night.
We expounded on sleep disorders in relation to bruxism because it’s important to seek appropriate treatment for the former as part of the treatment plan for the latter. In many cases, teeth grinding stops when the sleep disorder has been treated.
Your lifestyle habits can either cause teeth grinding or make it worse. These habits include but aren’t limited to:
- Alcohol consumption
- Use of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars and piped tobacco
- Use of recreational drugs like cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy
- Excessive consumption of caffeinated drinks, such as soda, tea and coffee (i.e., six or more cups per day)
These lifestyle factors can also be linked to the other bruxism risk factors. For example, the use of recreational drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress can worsen the teeth grinding episodes. The excessive consumption of caffeine during the day, even into the night as a night cap after dinner, can contribute to sleepless nights and to increased anxiety.
Your dentist and/or doctor will consider all these factors as possible causes in your teeth grinding habit before narrowing them down. Again, you must be prepared for your appointment by writing down the abovementioned notes and questions.
Why Seek Treatment for Bruxism?
We also want to go beyond the effective ways how to stop grinding your teeth and venture into the reasons for adopting these methods in the first place. Keep in mind that untreated bruxism can cause complications including but not limited to:
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which can be caused by pain and stiffness in the jaw joint and its surrounding muscles
- Fractured teeth and/or teeth loss with the possibility of installing partial or complete dentures or implants to replace the damaged teeth
- Sleep deprivation can cause the slowdown of the release of the human growth hormone, as well as interrupt deep sleep resulting in decreased memory function, metabolism, and muscle building. Sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of hypertension, strokes and diabetes, among others.
The bottom line: When you grind your teeth at night, your body is being deprived of the health benefits of uninterrupted sleep. You must then seek treatment for it and adopt the suggested methods!
How to stop teeth grinding: General Methods
If your doctor and/or dentist say that you will require treatment for teeth grinding, then you should cooperate. In many cases, treatment isn’t necessary, such as in mild bruxism and in children who are more likely to outgrow it. But if the problem ranges between moderate and severe, then therapies and medications will likely be a must to prevent further teeth damage, relieve jaw pain, and ensure better quality of sleep.
Be sure to know the pros and cons, as well as the suitability, of these general methods in your case. You may not require, for example, dental correction procedures but will benefit from medications and therapies.
Your dentist may suggest methods in preserving or improving the appearance of your teeth. Emphasis must be made, nonetheless, that these methods may not stop your teeth grinding habit.
- A splints or one of the best mouth guard is placed in the mouth and designed to keep the upper and lower teeth separated. These oral appliances then prevent teeth damage caused by grinding, clenching and gnashing at night. These aren’t suitable for all people so ask your dentist first before using one of them.
- Dental correction is recommended for severe cases where tooth wear has already caused teeth sensitivity and/or the chewing issues. Your dentist can use crowns in repairing the damage or reshaping your teeth’s chewing surfaces.
These methods will involve, an unnecessary and unwelcome expense for many understandably. But if you want to stop teeth grinding, you should seriously consider these options.
- Management of stress and/or anxiety
If your teeth grinding habit is caused by stress and/or anxiety, you can kick it by learning strategies for effective coping with it. Your main goal here is to find ways that will keep your mind and body as relaxed as possible. You may also require the professional help of a licensed counselor or therapist, especially if you have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety disorder.
If you like clenching teeth while awake as a response to a stressful situation, you should relax your mind and your body, especially your jaw and mouth. You can also meditate in a quiet room for a few minutes until such time that the need to grind your teeth has passed. You may also distract yourself, such as listen to relaxing music, watch funny videos, and walk briskly for a few minutes for this purpose, too.
Learning new habits is also a great thing to control your teeth grinding episodes. For one thing, you can be aware of your teeth and mouth’s placement. Keep your teeth apart while your mouth is closed, a habit that you can learn with practice.
Your teeth should only be touching when you’re chewing food or swallowing it. You have to be aware, too, whenever your jaw starts to clench, a sign that teeth grinding will likely follow. You should then slightly drop your jaw down so that your teeth don’t touch, feel your jaw and facial muscles relax, and hold the position for a few minutes.
You can also train your tongue, in a manner of speaking, by letting it rest lightly behind your upper front teeth. With your lips together and your teeth apart in this position, you are less likely to clench your jaw and grind your teeth during the day.
For another thing, you should stop chewing on things that aren’t food like pens, pencils, and fingernails. These are hard items that when chewed on for relatively prolonged periods will contribute to your jaw muscles being used to clenching. You are then more likely to grind your teeth in response to stressful situations – or worse, in an unconscious manner.
You should also avoid eating chewy foods since these have the same effect as gnawing on pens and pencils. These include gum, popcorn, and steak, among others. If you must eat these foods for one reason or another, you are well-advised to keep it to a minimum; doing so will give your jaw muscles a break and relieve your jaw’s soreness.
If you’re still having a difficult time adopting these new habits, or getting rid of your old ones, you may ask your doctor about biofeedback. Here, you will be taught effective techniques in controlling the activity of your jaw and its surrounding muscles.
Referral to a specialist
If your teeth grinding habit seems to be linked to an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, your dentist or doctor will likely refer you to a sleep medicine specialist. You will be asked to undergo diagnostic tests, such as a sleep study, to determine the specific sleep disorder and to assess your teeth grinding episodes. You may then be placed on a treatment plan to address the underlying medical condition.
But sleep disorders aren’t the only underlying cause of bruxism. You may, for example, have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) so it must be treated in order to improve your bruxism symptoms.
If your teeth grinding is linked to the use of certain medications, such as SSRIs, your doctor may change them in terms of dosage or type. But if it isn’t, then your doctor may recommend medications to improve your teeth grinding symptoms.
Emphasis must be made that more research is necessary to determine the efficacy of medications as an adjunct treatment for bruxism. Your doctor, nonetheless, may use one or more of these medications:
- Muscle relaxants, which may be taken before bedtime, are usually recommended only for a short period; these have side effects when taken for prolonged periods.
- Botox injections, which are usually used as part of a cosmetic procedure (i.e., non-invasive face lift), may be used on patients who aren’t responsive to other treatments. These should only be done by a qualified dermatologist because the toxin has adverse side effects that will worsen your condition.
- Prescription medications for stress or anxiety may also be recommended. These are designed to help patients deal with emotional and mental issues including stress, which may be causing bruxism.
If you observe side effects or your teeth grinding episodes seem to be getting worse despite these medications, you should immediately notify your doctor. You may have to stop with these medications and find other options.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These lifestyle factors are a must regardless of the medications, oral appliances, and therapies suggested by your dentist, doctor, and/or licensed therapist. These self-care steps may, in fact, prevent future episodes of bruxism.
- Avoid stimulants in the evening. Drinking coffee and tea, especially the caffeinated varieties, as well as drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco products can worsen bruxism.
- Adopt good sleeping habits. Go to bed at a regular time, engage in relaxing activities (e.g., a warm bath) before bedtime, and turn off appliances and gadgets before hitting the sack. Your bed should only be for sex and sleeping.
- Adopt good oral healthcare habits, too. Schedule regular dental visits, brush your teeth after every meal, and use your teeth for their specific uses only. And don’t forget to floss! Water flossers will improve your overall dental health so be sure to add them to your daily routine, too.
We also suggest adopting a good exercise program, even if it’s just a daily 30-minute brisk walk. Regular physical exercise alleviates stress and anxiety, as well as contributes to good sleep at night.
How to Stop Grinding Teeth At Night Without Night Guard
Many people also want to know how to stop grinding teeth in sleep naturally – that is, without the use of a night guard or a mouth guard. As we previously mentioned, wearing a mouth guard at night isn’t suitable for everybody with bruxism. This is because it repositions the jaw in a way that makes the airway’s obstruction even worse than it is (i.e., without a mouth guard in place).
Instead, you can stop teeth grinding in your sleep by adopting these tips.
Try the jaw clenching remedies. You can hold a warm washcloth or a heating pad against your cheek and jaw (i.e., just in front of your earlobe) to relax your facial muscles here. You may also relax your jaw and its surrounding muscles by moving it from side to side and opening and closing your mouth for about five minutes. Be careful not to let your teeth touch during the exercise.
- Give yourself a gentle massage. You can start with your legs and arms, followed by your waist, and then your head. You can end your self-massage with a gentle yet firm massage on your jaws. You are basically allowing your body in general and your jaw in particular to relax before you hit the hay. The calmer you are, the less likely you will grind your teeth in sleep.
Don’t eat chewy foods at any time during the day, especially for dinner. You will then be adopting a surprising yet effective way how to relax your jaw since you’re not subjecting it to more chewing than it needs to do.
Of course, you should also consider the other recommended remedies mentioned above, such as avoidance of alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drugs, as well as adopting relaxation methods.
How to Stop Grinding Teeth At Night Among Children
Unfortunately, tooth grinding in children is a common issue – about 15% to 33% of children have bruxism. Unlike adults, however, children are most likely to grind their teeth the most during these times – first, when their baby teeth emerge; and second, when their permanent teeth emerge, too. Fortunately, most children will lose the habit when their full set of baby teeth and permanent teeth have fully emerged.
Most children also grind their teeth while sleeping instead of during their waking hours for reasons yet unknown to science. Researchers also don’t know the exact reasons for teeth grinding in children but the commonly accepted theories include:
- Improper teeth alignment
- Irregular contact between the upper and lower teeth
- Health conditions, such as allergies, malnutrition, and pinworms
- Psychological factors like stress and anxiety
If your child’s dentist say that he or she has bruxism, you can adopt these child-specific tips to prevent teeth grinding, especially during the night:
- Decrease your child’s anxiety or stress before bedtime. You may have to reschedule homework, for example, and ban television and gadgets at night.
- Give your child a relaxing massage.
- Encourage stretching exercises during the day and before going to sleep to relax his or her muscles.
- Ensure that your child has sufficient hydration during the day. Water is best.
Your child’s dentist can also recommend dental procedures, such as a brace for teeth alignment, which can improve his or her symptoms.
Be aware, however, that no intervention is necessary where pre-school age children are concerned unless in extreme cases. For older children, other methods are likely necessary.