Clenching or grinding your teeth occasionally is normal and typically won’t cause damage, but when done regularly, it can harm your teeth and cause other oral health issues. Teeth grinding, technically called bruxismVigorous contraction of muscles of the upper jaw, which rubs the upper and lower teeth against each other and causes tooth grinding.
Click to learn more, can have different causes, but often it’s triggered by stress, medical conditions, or crooked or missing teeth. Grinding typically occurs during sleep, so it can be hard for people to know whether they have bruxism. Signs include a sore jaw or constant headache, and a partner can sometimes hear the grinding. Your dentist can also look for symptoms, like changes or abnormalities in your teeth as well as jaw tenderness. Severe bruxism can lead to loose or broken teeth, and can wear them down so much that crowns, implants, root canals, bridges, or dentures may be needed. It can also damage your jaw, lead to hearing loss, and change the shape of your face. These strategies will help you stop grinding:
Wear a Night Guard. Your dentist can custom fit you for a night guard, which is an appliance that fits over your top teeth, is made from plastic or acrylic, and is worn while you sleep. Though it won’t stop you from grinding, it protects your teeth.
Exercise.Whether you opt for a major sweat session or just a stroll, working out helps alleviate stress, which is a common cause of bruxism.
Take a Warm Bath Before Bed. Warm water can help relax your jaw muscles right before you turn in. If you don’t like baths, soak a washcloth in warm water, wring it out, and apply it to your jaw. A heating pad can also do the trick, though moist heat is best because it penetrates better.
Relax. Since anxiety is a major force behind grinding, try to unwind and relieve stress just before bedtime. Hitting the hay when you’re calm can reduce grinding.
Learn New Habits. It is possible to grind or clench during the day. So try to be aware of your mouth—keep your lips closed but teeth apart. Teeth should only touch when you’re chewing or swallowing. Whenever you feel your jaw clenching, drop your jaw down, feel the muscles relax, and then try to maintain that position.
Give Yourself a Massage. A rubdown helps the rest of your body relax, and it works the same way for your jaw muscles—gently rub them when you’re feeling tense.
Seek Help. If you suffer from severe anxiety, talk therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist may help alleviate that, which in turn will reduce grinding.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine. Grinding may get worse after drinking alcohol or caffeine. So skip that glass of wine or cup of coffee in the evening.
Don’t Chew Anything Besides Food. Gnawing on pens or pencils or similarly hard items can enable your jaw muscles to get used to clenching, making you more likely to grind your teeth.
Skip Chewy Foods. Keep gum, steak, popcorn, and other chewy foods to a minimum when you’ve been grinding your teeth. This will ease soreness and give your jaw a break.