Bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding, is a condition with many potential negative effects. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to live with it.
It’s not difficult to imagine what this condition involves. People who regularly clench or grind their teeth may be diagnosed with it. The problem is, excessive teeth grinding can be difficult to notice.
It can also occur at night when a person is not conscious of the problem. These are all good reasons to see your dentist on a regular basis. They’ll identify the problem and most likely let you know what steps you can take to address it.
This article will provide similar information. Here, you’ll learn more about what teeth grinding is, what causes it, and what you can do to prevent it in the future. Keep reading if you’re worried you may be damaging your teeth with excessive grinding.
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
Again, it’s not always easy to notice when you’re grinding your teeth frequently. This can be an almost unconscious action in many people. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the symptoms of teeth grinding. They’ll help you better understand whether you have been struggling with this condition, even if you didn’t realize it.
First, it’s worth noting that people with severe bruxism may grind their teeth so intensely that it actually creates enough noise to be heard by someone nearby. It’s not uncommon for people with bruxism to find out they have a problem because their partner hears them grinding their teeth loudly in their sleep.
If you suspect you have this condition and you already share a bed with someone, ask them if they’ve noticed these kinds of sounds. Even if they haven’t, that does not mean you don’t have a teeth grinding problem. Asking simply gives you an opportunity to find out if the problem is significant enough that it’s keeping your partner awake at night.
The physical motion of grinding your teeth can also generate side effects that you may not have realized were related to this type of condition.
For example, people who grind their teeth frequently often develop chronic pain or discomfort in their jaw muscles. The muscles can feel sore or tight, and it may feel as though your jaw is locked in position and not easy to move.
Another type of pain potentially related to teeth grinding includes what often feels like an earache. Despite this, there is actually nothing typically wrong with a patient’s ear when they develop this kind of pain if bruxism is the cause.
Sometimes, people with this condition will also notice a headache that seems to be centered around their temples. The pain associated with this headache is usually fairly dull.
General soreness can also develop in the neck and face if you grind your teeth frequently. The problem can even result in sleep disturbances.
As you may have guessed, grinding your teeth can damage them. Specifically, it can wear away at your enamel, the protective layer that guards against other forms of damage. That’s why people with bruxism often notice increased sensitivity in their teeth.
Of course, some symptoms are not as obvious as others. Again, this is a good reason to see your dentist every six months or so. They can identify some of the signs of teeth grinding that you may have missed. These include chipping or fractured teeth. Some cases of bruxism can even cause teeth to loosen or flatten.
Additionally, even if you don’t notice any increased tooth sensitivity yourself, that doesn’t mean you haven’t worn down your enamel. A dentist will take a closer look and let you know whether your enamel is in good shape (Source).
Pay attention to these symptoms. See your dentist regularly to spot any symptoms you might have missed. Schedule an appointment if you think you have a problem with constant teeth grinding. Again, there are steps you can take to protect your teeth in this situation to avoid future damage.
First, however, it helps to learn a little more about what causes teeth grinding in the first place. Knowing what may be causing your problem gives you the opportunity to limit certain lifestyle factors that may be contributing to it.
Although some people require more involved treatment for teeth grinding, there are cases where making relatively minor changes to your daily routine can have a big impact on reducing the severity of your condition.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
There are two major types of sleep grinding a person may experience: awake teeth grinding and sleep teeth grinding. As you likely have guessed, the names apply to the times of day when a person most often grinds their teeth. The different types are typically caused by different factors.
People who grind their teeth while awake often do so as the result of unpleasant emotional states. People who are under prolonged stress or suffer from anxiety may be prone to grinding their teeth throughout the day.
Again, this does not necessarily mean they will be aware of the issue. Even when sleep grinding occurs during waking hours, it can be such a natural part of a person’s behavior that they don’t realize there’s a problem.
If you grind your teeth during sleep, the problem may not be related to any emotional states. Instead, it can be caused by issues like an improper bite. This is something which can often be addressed with braces. Once more, this is why it’s important to schedule regular appointments with your dentist, especially if you suspect you may have this problem (Source).
Certain risk factors to make some people more likely to grind their teeth than others.
As is often the case with these types of conditions, people may be more likely to develop bruxism if they have family members or relatives who have also struggled with teeth grinding. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for young children to have bruxism, only for the problem to go away with age. This is fortunately one of the rare medical conditions which often gets better as a person gets older.
Certain medications can have the side effect of making someone grind their teeth frequently. This is particularly common among psychiatric medications. If you’ve been prescribed any medication for a mental health issue, ask your doctor if teeth grinding is a side effect associated with it.
While you never want to stop taking a medication if it’s beneficial to you and supports your mental health, your doctor may be able to recommend a similar medication without these unpleasant side effects.
That said, prescription medications aren’t the only substances that can result in frequent teeth grinding. The use of caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol have all been associated with an increased risk of bruxism. This may be good news if you are prone to using these substances.
While it’s not always easy to reduce your usage of them, especially if you’ve developed a habit, it’s certainly something you can do in the long run. Reducing your usage of these substances is a simple but potentially effective way to treat your teeth grinding problem.
It’s also worth noting that some experts believe people with certain types of personalities are simply more prone to bruxism than others. Specifically, it’s been argued that people who are more aggressive or competitive than the average individual are generally more likely to grind their teeth than most other people.
Finally, other medical conditions can be associated with an increased risk of teeth grinding. People with ADHD are often prone to this condition. That’s because their hyperactivity results in tension that can lead to teeth grinding. Additionally, the use of certain medications to treat ADHD can have an adverse effect on a patient’s bruxism.
Sleep apnea, epilepsy, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease have also been associated with symptoms like teeth grinding. If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, be sure to contact your physician and dentist to determine if you are struggling with bruxism as well (Source).
Why Treatment is Important?
Teeth grinding is not a problem you should ignore. Again, it can result in issues like facial discomfort and teeth sensitivity. These aren’t the kinds of problems you want to struggle with on a regular basis.
That said, some people may wonder whether they really need to do anything about their bruxism if it isn’t resulting in any unpleasant symptoms. The fact is, regardless of whether your teeth grinding problem is causing any sort of unpleasant symptoms in your day-to-day life, it can still cause harm in the long run.
Again, constantly grinding your teeth can significantly damage them. In some cases, patients need to receive false teeth to replace those that were lost as a result of bruxism. Even if you don’t lose teeth, people with bruxism often require additional dental treatments, like root canal therapy.
Prolonged teeth grinding also has a negative impact on key joints in and around your face. In fact, there are instances in which untreated bruxism can result in changes to a person’s facial appearance over time. This is obviously not a consequence you want (Source).
Luckily, you don’t have to struggle with these effects of bruxism. It’s entirely possible to treat this problem. Keep in mind, while some of the tips listed here will involve taking steps on your own to address your condition, it’s also important to heed the advice of your dentist and/or physician if they recommend certain treatment options.
The advice here should not be confused for professional medical advice. If your teeth grinding problem is severe, you may need to undergo a physician-recommended treatment in order to prevent substantial problems in the future.
In the meantime, keep the following points in mind. They’ll help you better understand what you can or might do to treat your teeth grinding.
#1. Reduce Stress
Remember, people who grind their teeth during the day often do so as a result of stress. This may be the case with you. Thus, you should speak with your doctor about taking steps to reduce stress in your life. They may be able to recommend a particular medication or treatment program to help ease your chronic tension (Source).
You can also make your own lifestyle choices that can potentially reduce your stress. For instance, exercising more often offers a wide range of health benefits. Relieving stress is often one of them. You might also consider taking up a practice like yoga or meditation to further reduce your anxiety and stress.
Sometimes, making certain lifestyle changes is the right way to address the issue. It’s possible that a situation with your career or interpersonal relationships is causing your stress. Taking steps to address these personal issues may have the pleasant side effect of treating your bruxism.
#2. Avoid Problem Substances
You already know that you should avoid excessive use of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco if you want to stop grinding your teeth so often.
However, you might not know that certain items contain more of these substances than you realize. Obviously, a person who wants to cut back on caffeine will try to avoid drinking too much coffee, tea, or energy drinks.
That’s a good strategy. But it may not be enough. For example, chocolate often contains higher amounts of caffeine than many people realize. Take the time to investigate the ingredients of any food and beverage you consume to ensure it doesn’t contain too much caffeine (Source).
#3. Wear a Mouth Guard
This is a treatment dentists and doctors often recommend for people who grind their teeth during sleep. Wearing a mouth guard at night can keep your teeth separated, so you’re not able to grind them (Source).
Talk to your dentist about this option if they suggest taking steps to address your bruxism. They can often help you order a custom mouth guard designed specifically for your teeth. In the meantime, you can get a basic mouth guard at many pharmacies and similar stores. While it may not be designed to fit your teeth perfectly, it can do the trick.
#4. Be Aware
Some people actually don’t need to do much to treat their bruxism once they know they have it. Remember, plenty of people with this condition actually don’t realize they have a tendency to grinding their teeth on a regular basis. Once this has been pointed out to them, they can become more conscious of the problem. They’ll notice when they are keeping their jaw clenched, and will consciously relax it. Over time, they find they’re able to naturally keep their jaw in an unclenched position without even thinking about it.
This can take some practice for a patient. That said, it’s easily one of the simplest treatments for bruxism because it doesn’t involve anything more than recognizing the problem and consciously working to avoid it. You can even ask your doctor or dentist to recommend tips for keeping your jaw in a healthy position throughout the day (Source).
#5. Take Muscle Relaxants
Obviously, you should never try to acquire any medication without consulting with your doctor first.
However, if you do think you may need the help of medication to treat your bruxism, they can often prescribe muscle relaxants which help to reduce the jaw and facial tension that may result in teeth grinding. Discuss this option with your doctor if you’ve tried other methods and haven’t found much success (Source).
Botox injections are also used to reduce bruxism in severe cases. Again, this is an option you’ll have to discuss with your doctor first. If they do recommend it, heed their advice, but remember, you may want to try other methods first if your doctor does not believe your condition is severe enough to warrant this kind of treatment initially (Source).
#7. Avoid Bad Habits
Did you know that you may be grinding your teeth because your teeth are “used to” being in that kind of position? Certain bad habits can actually make a person’s teeth adjust to a clenched position. That means they remain in that position on a more permanent basis than a person may intend.
Simply chewing gum can put you at a greater risk than the average person of developing bruxism. So can chewing on pencils or fingernails. As a basic rule of thumb, try to avoid or reduce any habits that involve chewing on anything that isn’t food. Over time, you can train your body to not keep your mouth in this uncomfortable position (Source).
#8. Relax Your Facial Muscles
You may not need any expensive medication or treatment to relax the muscles in your face. For some people, a very simple trick can be enough to keep them from grinding their teeth. All you have to do is soak a washcloth in warm water, wring it out, then hold it against your cheek. Try to keep it in front of your earlobe for the best results. Keep it there until you notice your muscles starting to relax and your jaw starting to unclench (Source).
#9. Address Sleep Issues
People who grind their teeth during sleep often do so during the brief periods in the night when they almost wake up, but not completely. That’s why doctors recommend making an effort to get healthy sleep if you have this condition. Making an attempt to get a more restful sleep can go a long way towards preventing bruxism (Sources).
There are several ways a person can potentially improve the quality of their sleep. This is another instance in which exercising more often during the day can be very beneficial. You might also consider taking supplements like melatonin. Avoiding substances like caffeine and other stimulants in the later hours of the day can also improve sleep quality. So can maintaining a relatively cool temperature in your bedroom.
Those steps are often effective for most people trying to improve their sleep. However, if you find that you’re still struggling to get decent sleep, consider speaking with a doctor about other options.
#10. Drink Water
You already know that you should be drinking a decent amount of water during the day. Doing so offers a very wide range of health benefits.
It might also help reduce your teeth grinding. That’s because there appears to be a link between dehydration and teeth grinding. Keep yourself hydrated, and you’ll keep your teeth in better shape.
Of course, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the day if you have a busy lifestyle. That’s why you might want to invest in a water bottle you can carry with you throughout the day. Having it on hand won’t just give you more opportunities to hydrate yourself; it will serve as a reminder to do so in the first place.
#11. Massage Your Muscles
Remember how relaxing your facial and jaw muscles can be as easy as applying a warm washcloth to it? As it turns out, it may be even easier to address tension in these key muscles and joints. All you have to do is massage them gently with your own fingers.
Doing so may reduce the tension in these muscles enough to help you avoid excessive teeth grinding. This is an easy step to take, one that you can take throughout the day whenever you notice you’ve been clenching your jaw (Source).
#12. Speak with a Physical Therapist
There are some physical therapists who can provide you with exercises to address tension in the facial and jaw muscles. A chiropractor might also be able to help. Again, while it is important to see both your regular physician and dentist if you suspect you have a problem with grinding your teeth too frequently, discussing the issue with other specialists isn’t exactly a bad idea. They can offer other remedies which may be helpful in addressing the issue (Source).
#13. Use Essential Oils
Lavender essential oil is well-known for its relaxing effects. Thus, it can be very helpful if you’re looking for a natural way to reduce tension and get better sleep. Either use an essential oil diffuser to spread the scent of lavender oil throughout your home, or sprinkle a few drops on your bedding and pillow before going to sleep. This may help promote better rest, reducing your teeth grinding as a result (Source).
#14. Maintain a Healthy Diet
The modern world can be a very demanding place. It’s very common for the average person to use some form of caffeine to get through the work day.
However, there are people who use caffeine for a little boost, and people who rely on caffeine and other stimulating substances because they aren’t getting enough energy from their food.
This is a key reason to stick to a balanced, nutritious diet. Doing so will provide your body with the energy it needs from natural sources.
This may also help with your bruxism. If you get more natural energy from food, you’ll be less inclined to rely on large doses of stimulants to keep you motivated and focused throughout the day. As a result, you may not grind your teeth as often.
#15. Have Fun
It’s important to have fun in life. This is true even when you’re an adult. Simply having a hobby you like to engage in can go a long way towards reducing stress.
Again, stress can be a major contributing factor to teeth grinding. That’s why you should engage in healthy pursuits that help reduce it (Source).
#16. Try a Simple Breathing Technique
Did you know that the rhythm of your breathing can actually have a major effect on your stress levels? Luckily, that means that you can often reduce stress (and prevent bruxism as a result) simply by being more conscious of your breathing.
You should also try the following breathing exercise whenever you feel stressed. It can be particularly helpful if you notice your stress is causing you to clench your jaw tightly. Simply inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, then exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat until you notice your body starting to calm down and relax (Source).
Remedies like these are helpful because you don’t need to do much to take advantage of them. You don’t need to set aside a lot of time, buy certain items, or undergo extensive treatment. All you have to do is step back from your hectic life for a few moments and consciously adjust the rhythm of your breathing. Doing so will offer many benefits associated with reduced stress if you maintain this practice on a regular basis. Preventing bruxism is just one of them.
#17. Try Valerian Root
Valerian root is a nutritional supplement that has been known to promote feelings of relaxation. People often use it to help treat issues like insomnia and chronic stress. Thus, it may help if you are struggling with either form of teeth grinding. If you grind your teeth during the day, valerian root can help you relax and let go of tension. If you grind your teeth during sleep, valerian root can improve the quality of your sleep, making you less likely to grind your teeth as a result (Source).
#18. Get Enough Calcium and Magnesium
You need sufficient doses of both calcium and magnesium to maintain a healthy nervous system. This is a major reason why people with bruxism are encouraged to ensure they’re getting these nutrients from either food or supplements. When you don’t have enough calcium or magnesium in your diet, problems with your nervous system can make you more likely to clench your jaw.
Keep in mind, this is not the kind of step that will yield immediate results. You need to maintain a healthy diet for several weeks before you start to notice benefits. Thus, you shouldn’t return to an unhealthy diet simply because you’ve been getting more magnesium or calcium without any noticeable effects. It will take time for the benefits to become clear, but they almost certainly will eventually if you make a point of sticking with a healthy diet (Source).
#19. Use Visualization or Hypnosis
Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to find tools that promote both relaxation and improved sleep quality. For example, some people simply listen to audio recordings that guide them through relaxing visualizations when they are trying to reduce stress.
You may not even need to purchase any of these recordings. Simply go to Youtube or a similar website and search for any that may be available for free. Listening to them regularly can help you sleep better, relax more, and quit grinding your teeth.
#20. Switch to Green Tea
Again, too much caffeine can make you more likely to grind your teeth. This is true regardless of what form of bruxism you have. Drinking caffeine during the day can exacerbate stress. Drinking caffeine at night can interfere with the quality of your sleep.
However, it’s difficult for many people to completely cut caffeine from their diet. That’s why they may be better off switching to green tea if they rely on coffee, energy drinks, or other sources of caffeine.
Green tea typically contains smaller amounts of caffeine than many other sources. This can help a person reduce their consumption without quitting entirely. Additionally, green tea has been known to promote a state of relaxation. Consider drinking more green tea and less of other caffeinated beverages if you want to stop grinding your teeth but still need something to help you stay energized during the day (Source).
Keep in mind, even if you don’t typically need a lot of caffeine, certain herbal teas can still help you relax. Chamomile is a good option if you’re looking for something you can drink close to bedtime without it interfering with your sleep.
#21. Get More Vitamin C
Like calcium and magnesium, vitamin C can play a very important role in regulating the function of your nervous system. It can also promote smoother muscle movements, which may help you reduce tension in your jaw and face. Thus, it’s important to make sure you’re either eating enough food with vitamin C, or taking supplements if you don’t think you’re getting enough from food sources alone (Source).
Again, you shouldn’t expect this particular remedy to have any noticeable effects right away. It can take time before changes to your diet yield clear benefits. That doesn’t mean you should disregard this advice. Maintaining a healthy diet is key to your overall wellness. Reducing your odds of struggling with bruxism is just one way it helps.
#22. See Family and Friends
It can’t be stated enough: stress can play a very big role in making a problem with teeth grinding worse. This is why you do need to focus on steps you can take to relieve stress in your life. Even if they don’t seem like the kinds of steps you would take to address an issue like bruxism, they can actually have a surprisingly major impact on your condition.
That’s why it’s important to spend time socializing with family and friends. Experts point out that socializing can be very effective at reducing stress levels in a person’s daily life. The fact that you’re hanging out with friends and protecting your teeth at the same time is definitely encouraging. Of course, make sure your social life doesn’t actually make the problem worse in other ways. If you indulge in harmful substances when socializing, or if you end up spending too much time out and fail to get enough sleep as a result, you could be doing yourself more harm than good (Source).
#23. Take More Vacations
It can be difficult to find time to get away when you have a busy lifestyle. Your employer may only grant a limited amount of vacation days a year. Additionally, the work-centric lifestyle that many people adopt in the modern age can make them feel as though taking time away from their job is simply at odds with their values.
This is understandable. Many people have busy lives and don’t feel as though they can justify taking too much time off. However, there are many good reasons why you should consider taking more short vacations throughout the year. Studies indicate that getting away from work, even for relatively brief periods of time, can have a major impact on your ability to manage stress. As a result, you’ll be more relaxed during the day, and thus less likely to grind your teeth. If you ever needed another excuse to get away from it all, now you have a very good one (Source).
#24. Ask for Feedback
Talking with your sleeping partner if you’re diagnosed with the type of bruxism that strikes during sleep is essential as you try these remedies. Again, unless you experience noticeable symptoms like discomfort or pain, it can often be difficult to know whether you’re grinding your teeth. People who grind their teeth during waking hours may notice their jaws clenching, but people who grind their teeth while asleep might have no idea if their attempts to address the issue are working.
This is why you need to make sure you constantly communicate with your sleeping partner if you experience the kind of nighttime sleep grinding that generates noticeable sounds. They can tell you whether you’re still grinding your teeth as loudly, or whether the problem seems to be going away. This can help you identify which treatment methods are working. If your partner tells you you’re still grinding your teeth at night, you’ll know that you need to take more steps to address the problem (Source).
#25. Make Turmeric Milk
You already know that getting more calcium is important if you have bruxism. You also know that getting better sleep is necessary.
These are good reasons to drink milk more often. Most people are aware that milk is a good source of calcium. What they might not know, however, is that it also contains tryptophan. This amino acid has been linked to improved sleep and relaxation.
That said, milk alone may not be enough if you want to get the full benefits. Many recommend adding a teaspoon of turmeric powder to your glass of milk if you’re struggling with discomfort caused by teeth grinding. There’s reason to believe that turmeric can help reduce your discomfort. Combined with milk, it can be a very effective treatment for teeth grinding (Source).
#26. Consider Alternative Treatments
There are many alternative medicine remedies that can be used to promote better sleep and relaxation. While you shouldn’t rely on an alternative treatment as a substitute for conventional medicine, there’s certainly no harm in trying a few different methods to find out if they’re effective. Treatments like acupuncture, acupressure, and reiki may all contribute to improved sleep quality and enhanced relaxation. If you believe that relaxing more easily would help reduce your teeth grinding, look into practitioners in your area and let them know you’re specifically interested in treatment for stress and/or insomnia.
#27. Try Epsom Salts
Adding epsom salts to a bath can have a very detoxifying effect on the body that may also be beneficial to those struggling with bruxism. First, epsom salts contain magnesium. The body will absorb the nutrients directly through the skin if you take an epsom salt bath. This will help promote healthy nervous system function, which, again, is key to preventing teeth grinding.
On top of that, many report that epsom salt baths are particularly relaxing. Treating yourself to regular sessions throughout the week can reduce the stress in your life that may be otherwise contributing to your bruxism. Best of all, epsom salts are typically not that expensive (Source).
Remember, if the remedies listed here aren’t effective, you should consult with your doctor and/or dentist for other suggestions. You should also be scheduling regular dental visits to ensure a professional is monitoring the status of bruxism.
This health condition can cause problems that extend beyond mere discomfort. Luckily, by keeping these tips in mind and taking a proactive approach, you can stop grinding your teeth and avoid any potential long term damage.