Do you grind or clench your teeth and wonder how you can stop yourself from grinding your teeth at night? If so, you’re not alone. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding affects about 8-10 percent of the population, according to some research studies. Many people (young and old) grind their teeth at night, which can lead to serious dental consequences. Regardless of the reasons why you grind, there are several things you can do to stop grinding your teeth at night and thus prevent the damage that can result from doing so. Talk to your dentist about your risk of bruxism and how you can best treat it.
Why do I grind my teeth at night?
There are many factors that can increase the risk of bruxism. Here are some for you to think about. How many of these factors affect you?
- Stress: Up to 70% of bruxism is caused by stress, and is often related to worries related to work. Situations that cause you to experience anxiety, stress or anger can cause grinding.
- Age: Bruxism is quite common in young children, however, it usually resolves by adulthood.
- Personality type: Aggressive or hyperactive personality types can increase your risk of bruxism. It is fairly common in individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Medications: Although uncommon, certain psychiatric medications, including some antidepressants can lead to bruxism. Using recreational drugs and smoking may also increase the risk.
- Family history: Bruxism can run in families. If you grind your teeth, there is a higher chance that other members of your family may be affected as well.
- Medical Conditions: Bruxism has been shown to be related to some medical disorders, including Parkinson's, dementia, epilepsy, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Bruxism is common in those with sleep apnea. Nearly a quarter of sleep apnea sufferers grind their teeth.
What are the consequences/complications?
Typically, bruxism does not cause serious complications. However, severe bruxism may lead to any of the following:
- Damaged teeth (like fractures or wearing away of the tooth or enamel), restorations, crowns or jaw. In severe cases, teeth can become loose from the gums, and there can be loss of teeth.
- Tension-type headaches that can be mild or severe, or other types of headaches
- Facial or jaw pain (including aching jaw pain and tooth pain) which can also be mild or severe
- You have probably heard of TMJ, or perhaps you have suffered from it in the past. Disorders in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), which are located in front of your ears. TMJ can cause a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth.
Is there a treatment for it?
There are several treatments that can help you stop yourself from grinding your teeth at night. Here are the most effective treatments.
Treatments and strategies that help to get rid of teeth grinding include:
- Reduce stress
- Get more sleep
- Avoid chewing gum
- Consciously relax your face and jaw throughout the day
- Buy a teeth grinding mouth guard from your dentist — this is the most popular and widely used solution
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid caffeine, which can make you tense
Daily jaw exercises (usually performed several times per day) can help prevent grinding to a certain extent. A physical therapist or chiropractor can recommend specialized exercises that can help relax and strengthen your jaw.
The following exercises (when performed 2-3 times per day) can help relax and strengthen your jaw.
- Apply a warm, wet washcloth on your jaw
- Put your thumb under your chin and then open and close your mouth while holding your thumb in place
- Place your thumb and forefinger on the front of your chin and push your jaw out so your hand moves forward
- Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and then open and close your mouth
- Position one finger inside your mouth and then allow your jaw go slack
Custom Night Guards
Night guards protect against teeth grinding and have been shown to be the best treatment to help you stop yourself from grinding your teeth at night. They are different from the mouth guards worn during athletic activities. A mouth guard customized for you by your dentist can help you avoid damaging your teeth because the guard takes the hit instead.
Getting a Night Guard may be the best option
Getting a custom night guard is the best option to protect against bruxism. It will provide you with a solid yet comfortable barrier throughout the night that stays in place. There are two types of night guards. The first option is a custom night guard made by your dentist. Custom night guards are your best option as they will protect against bruxism and are designed specifically for your unique mouth shape. The second type of night guard is a non-custom night guard that you can purchase at a pharmacy, and they are sometimes sold online. These typically fit less comfortably because they are not customized to fit you. Although they can be fairly inexpensive, these mouth guards can feel loose and as though they are moving around in your mouth. They can still do the job of protecting your teeth from the damage caused by grinding. Generally speaking, night guards (preferably those customized by your dentist) are just like insurance for your dental work. They could potentially save you from thousands of dollars in future dental procedures (not to mention paid and discomfort!). That is certainly a long-term investment in your oral health that is definitely worthwhile.
Isn’t it time take a preventative approach to bruxism to stop yourself from grinding your teeth at night? Mackenzie Dental can help you stop grinding your teeth at night by customizing a night guard that is best for you and your needs in order to protect your pearly whites for years to come. As professionals in the field, Mackenzie Dental can help you with all your dental needs.