How to Stop Grinding Teeth


Everybody handles excess stress differently. Some people develop an ulcer, some people develop high blood pressure, and some people grind or clench their teeth.

Stress, it's now believed, is the major cause of grinding and clenching your teeth, say dental researchers. In the past, a malocclusion (the way your teeth fit together) got the blame, and dentists would grind the teeth down, trying to readjust the bite.

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In a small percentage of cases, sleep patterns are responsible. The reasons children grind remain unclear.

The problem with bruxism, as the habit of grinding and clenching is called, is the wear and tear on your teeth. When you grind your teeth, you can wear away tooth enamel. This can lead to sensitive teeth and tooth decay, and it can also cause damage to expensive dental work. Finally, grinding taxes the muscles and joints of the temporomandibular (jaw). Prolonged grinding may damage the jaw joint enough to cause osteoarthritis as well as bone loss in periodontal (gum) disease, although it does not actually cause gum disease.

Teeth-grinding is thought to be hereditary. It's also related to gender: Three times as many women as men grind their teeth. Bruxism is most common in those between 20 and 40 years of age.

Ironically, the regular grinder may do less harm than the intermittent grinder--sort of like the weekend athlete who's not in shape for intense activity. The regular grinder can wear down teeth, but his or her muscles get stronger from the habit.

Clenching may do more harm than grinding because, although your jaw is designed for chewing, it is not designed for clenching. As a result, clenching can cause degeneration in the joint.

People who grind are usually aware of their habit, too. They wake up with a stiff or tired jaw, or their spouse hears the noise during the night. Clenchers, on the other hand, may be ignorant of their problem. Some people clench all day and don't realize it, although they do find that they have jaw pain that increases throughout the day.

In this article, we'll give you some tips to quit bruxing and ease the discomfort that comes with it.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Tips for Teeth-Grinders

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The warmth of the water may temporarily relax your jaw muscles.

Here's what you can do to try to stop bruxing and to cope with discomfort until you do:

Wear a night guard. Your dentist can make a plastic or acrylic appliance for you to wear at night. Although it may not stop you from grinding, it will redistribute the forces from grinding and protect your teeth from damage. Your dentist will want to see you regularly to check for any tooth movement or cavities that might result from wearing such an appliance. Keep in mind, however, that in order for the night guard to do any good, you must remember to put it in.

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Keep your lips sealed, but your teeth apart. Your teeth should be touching only when you're chewing or swallowing. Drop your jaw and feel the muscles relax -- then try to maintain that feeling.

Take a warm bath before bedtime. The warmth of the water may temporarily relax your jaw muscles.

Exercise. Your body, not your jaw, that is. A walk or other mild exercise may help relieve some of the tension and stress that's causing bruxism.

Remind yourself. If you're a daytime clencher, think of ways to remind yourself not to clench. For example, you can put a red dot on your phone, stickers on your wristwatch, or even a string on your finger to remind you to keep your jaw relaxed.

Relieve stress. Stress is a major contributor to grinding, so if you can reduce stress, you will likely reduce grinding.

Learn coping skills. See a psychologist or psychiatrist. Take an assertiveness training course. Practice techniques such as progressive relaxation or guided imagery or self hypnosis. Listen to relaxation tapes. In other words, find something that helps you to better handle the stress in your life.

Take a mild analgesic. Ibuprofen, for example, can dull the pain and help relax stiff muscles. For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics, click here.

Apply heat. Warm, moist heat is best. The simplest method: Soak a washcloth in hot water, wring it out, and hold it up to your jaw. You can use a heating pad, although moist heat will penetrate better.

Massage. It works for the rest of your body, so try a gentle massage to your jaw muscles.

Give your jaw muscles a break. Limit steak, hard-crusted bread, popcorn, gum, and other chewy foods that give your jaw a workout, especially when jaw discomfort is at its worst.

These tips should help you ease your jaw pain and get your bruxism under control before you grind your teeth into dust.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.