How to Stop Teeth Grinding
Most people grind their teeth on occasion, and when it occurs in random, isolated instances during moments of stress or discomfort, it most likely isn’t a problem.
However, if it occurs frequently, it could lead to other problems, particularly with respect to your oral health. It’s important in these cases to take steps to stop. Fortunately, there are many effective ways to stop teeth clenching and prevent the damage it causes.
Here, we’ll go over why people clench their teeth, how it affects them, and how to stop teeth grinding.
Why People Grind Their Teeth
Teeth grinding can occur both during daylight hours as well as while one is asleep. During the day, it’s frequently attributable to high-stress levels, such as in moments of anger, tension, frustration, or anxiety. At night, there are numerous other causal factors that could come into play.
The precise causes aren’t always clear, but there is at least some evidence to suggest each of the following:
Sleep ApneaDuring deeper sleep cycles, your muscles are supposed to relax completely. However, this may be problematic in that the tissue around the jaw and throat may sag and impede breathing. This causes the brain to panic as blood oxygen levels diminish, causing muscles to tense up. In some individuals, this may result in teeth grinding as their bodies clench the jaw to keep the tongue and throat tissue from sagging into airways.
Abnormal BiteAnother possible cause of teeth grinding at night is an abnormal bite, which is when teeth don’t quite match up when the jaw closes. There are various causes for this, such as birth defects, malformations of the jaw, overcrowding of the teeth, or dental damage. Missing or crooked teeth may lead to irritation, which in turn could be a factor in causing bruxism.
Facial or oral pain may have a role in causing teeth grinding, particularly in children. As new teeth come in or as other sources cause pain, one may grind their teeth as a coping mechanism, much in the way that people will massage a sore muscle to try to ease their discomfort.
Muscle SpasmsSome people may have muscle spasms as they sleep, and this can lead to jaw clenching. Certain neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease could lead to these uncontrolled muscle movements.
Teething and Oral DiscomfortTeeth grinding in children is quite common, but it will typically vanish over time. Children frequently grind their teeth as they come in, and it may be a response to the pain of teething or other stimuli, such as earaches. Again, this typically stops over time as adult teeth come in, but sometimes it does not. In those cases, certain treatments may be necessary.
Common Symptoms of Teeth GrindingTeeth grinding, whether at night or during the day, can lead to a variety of results with respect to one’s oral health. Common symptoms of bruxism include the following:
Tooth Wear and Damage
One of the common signs of bruxism is damage and wear to the teeth. The tooth may loosen, or the enamel may be worn down flat. Chipping and fracturing are also common. In some cases, a broken tooth may not immediately result from bruxism, but could rather occur later on as the enamel is ground away and weakened.
Head and EarachesIf you frequently wake up in the morning with a tension headache or pain in your ears, you may be clenching your teeth while you sleep. The muscles used to clamp your jaws shut may be overworked, and you’ll feel soreness in various parts around your head, particularly your ears.
Jaw Pain and FatigueJaw clenching leads to fatigue in the jaw muscles, often causing them and surrounding areas to be sore. Facial and neck pain may be common in these cases. In addition, the muscles could tense up, making it difficult to open and close the mouth. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) where the jaw meets the skull could become sore or start to click.
Disrupted Sleep Patterns Indicators of Other Problems
Since bruxism and sleep apnea are often related, disrupted sleep patterns are a key indicator. You may wake up at random points during the night without any external cause, or you might simply feel unrested when you get up in the morning, even after a full night’s rest. Snoring is another (and very audible) indicator of obstructive sleep apnea, and this, in turn, could indicate possible jaw clenching while you sleep.
Indicators of Other Problems
While many of these symptoms may be indicators of other issues on their own, a medical professional will be able to tell the difference. For instance, tooth wear from eating hard foods will look different from that of teeth clenching, and snoring may not necessarily mean you grind your teeth, though it still could be a symptom of sleep apnea.
If these conditions all occur together, then they very likely point toward jaw clenching and teeth grinding, in which case it is advisable to take measures to stop it.
How to Stop Bruxism
Fortunately, there are numerous methods for how to stop teeth clenching and prevent the damage it causes. These include everything from making slight lifestyle changes to using special oral or medical appliances.
Reduce Stress Change Sleeping Position
Stressful situations can lead to bruxism, particularly during the day, though it could have an impact on jaw clenching at night as well. Coping with stress properly can diminish teeth grinding pain. For example, taking time to relax during the day or performing meditative exercises can help reduce stress levels. When you are angry, frustrated, or tense, try taking a stroll outside or walking away from the situation to decompress.
Change Sleeping Position Additional Apnea Treatments
Given the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and jaw clenching, measures to cope with this sleep disorder could help. One method is to sleep on your side rather than on your back. This prevents your tongue and throat tissue from sagging in on airways during deep sleep cycles and can, therefore, be a great way to stop jaw clenching.
Additional Apnea Treatments Use a Mouth Guard
In addition to changing sleeping positions, other home treatments for apnea could help, such as losing weight or changing daily habits that contribute toward it. Smoking and alcohol consumption, for instance, often cause apnea. A CPAP device could also be necessary should a medical professional deem it so, though this is usually only needed in more serious cases.
Use a Mouth Guard Professional Treatment
Oral appliances such as mouth guards can help treat the symptoms of jaw clenching by preventing teeth from grinding together in your sleep. The way they work is by holding the jaw in a set position while you sleep, at once preventing both obstructions of the throat as well as keeping the teeth from making contact with each other.
There are many affordable options available on the market, including the SleepEase bruxism mouth guard and the SleepEase dental night guard. A dentist can also fashion one specifically fit to your mouth, though typically at a much higher cost.
At times, professional treatment may be necessary to stop teeth clenching, particularly in extreme or advanced cases. If your teeth have already been damaged by bruxism or if you have a case of obstructive sleep apnea that cannot be treated through simpler means, you may need to see a professional to prescribe a treatment. Dentists may recommend night guards, or a sleep doctor may ask that you use a CPAP device to allow for easier breathing while you sleep.
If you take certain antidepressants or have other medical conditions that contribute toward tooth grinding, then you will want to see your doctor to discuss possible treatments. You may need to stop taking certain medications or make life changes to cope with the side effects.
Helping Children with Bruxism
Teeth grinding in children can be a little more difficult to manage, but fortunately, it will usually go away on its own as mentioned above. If it does not, however, managing the situation may be a little more difficult since young children might not cooperate with certain treatment methods. They may be more comfortable sleeping on their back, for instance, or they may find a CPAP device or night guard unbearable.
Helping your child cope with stress could stop teeth grinding. Try talking with them to find sources of anxiety in their lives or use soothing music as they go to bed at night. In addition, the way you present a treatment could help them receive it better, such as telling them that professional athletes often wear mouth guards.
Learning How to Stop Teeth Grinding
Ultimately, the treatment option you choose will depend on what is causing you to grind your teeth at night and how severe the case is. In most mild cases, one of the above treatments will be enough, but sometimes a combination of them may be necessary. In more serious cases, a consultation with a medical professional may be needed.