Teeth Grinding Explained

How to Prevent Teeth Grinding

For most cases of teeth grinding, the answer to stopping the behavior sounds simple: just relax! Of course, as anyone who's tried it knows, battling stress is anything but simple. If you suspect, like most Americans, your teeth-grinding behavior is triggered by too much stress in your life, you might want to try relaxation techniques such as meditation, exercise, biofeedback or stretches -- especially those that help relax the muscles of the neck and jaw.

Another good way to relax the muscles of the jaw is to apply a warm washcloth just below your ears on each side of your head before sleeping. Topical analgesics such as Tiger Balm or Capzasin, applied to the outside of jaw just below the ears, may also bring temporary relief. One other try-at-home technique to limit your clenching is to focus on your mouth and jaw position by keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth, your lips closed and your teeth apart.

Things to avoid if you grind include caffeine, alcohol and tobacco (which have all been implicated in bruxism), as well as chewing on anything other than food while awake, including gum and the ends of pens and pencils.

If these techniques don't lessen your grinding, you might want to visit your dentist. He or she can fit you with either a splint or a mouth guard. Splints are usually made of hard acrylic and help keep a space between your teeth so that you don't grind. Mouth guards are usually made from a softer material and protect the teeth from the impact of grinding. However, because mouth guards don't prevent the upper and lower teeth from coming together, they may actually increase bruxism in some people.

Something else your dentist will do is to determine if your bruxism is caused by misaligned teeth. If so, he or she will propose a plan to reshape your bite.