Grinding teeth — we all do it, to an extent. Sometimes we clench our teeth when we’re focused or annoyed. But many people chronically grind, clench, grit, or gnash their teeth, often for hours in their sleep. This can wear away at your teeth over time and is called bruxism.
There is no true cure to bruxism, but there are several effective actions one can take to offset the negative effects of it, which can include anything from chronic jaw pain, worn enamel, flat and sensitive teeth, and even damage to the inside of your cheeks and indents on your tongue.
Preventative Treatments for Bruxism Patients
Patients who suffer from bruxism can impact the future of their teeth by taking care of the lower half of their face. For those whose teeth grinding has adversely affected their mandibles, the application of a hot, wet towel or washcloth against the jawbone can relieve soreness as well as relax the jaw muscles. Furthermore, regularly massaging the muscles, the lower half of the face and even the neck can ease tension and tightness around the teeth. Stretching the jaw in a yawning motion can help relax your mouth, making you less likely to clench or grind your teeth in unconscious states. If you can afford it, pay a visit to a physical therapist or a chiropractor.
Mental Practices to Reduce Bruxism
Some actions that bruxism patients can take are actions that are beneficial lifestyle changes as well, even helping reduce other problems like snoring. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water every day can help reduce the onset of bruxism. In keeping with self-care practice, getting enough sleep each night and finding ways to lower stress levels in your daily life is also an effective way to reduce grinding. For many people, the early stages of bruxism are a reaction to stressors. It is impossible to quit a stressful job at a moment’s notice, but perhaps attempting to shift responsibilities or finding ways to reduce stress outside of work can help tackle bruxism. Finding a relaxing hobby or exercise, such as yoga, journaling, or watching reruns of your favorite show can help ease mental tension — and, by extension, barricade you from external forces that increase your grinding.
Physical practices to reduce or eliminate bruxism
There are also other physical practices you can adopt to reduce or eliminate bruxism. A few times a day, try becoming aware of the “state” of your face. If you notice you are clenching your jaw muscles make a conscious effort to relax your jaw and face. Do this several times a day, and eventually, you may find your jaw relaxes when you are not thinking about it.
Avoid practices that unconsciously encourage you to grind your teeth. Refrain from chewing gum, and avoid snacking on food items that require hard chewings, such as sunflower seeds or jawbreakers. Not only can these foods reinforce bad chewing or grinding habits, but they can exacerbate the damage to your teeth that may already be forming from your grinding habits.
Try abstaining from alcohol. Alcoholic drinks considerably increase a person’s tendency toward clenching their teeth. Avoid coffees, sodas, black or green teas, dark chocolate, and other drinks or food items with caffeine, as caffeine can easily make your body tense up causing your jaw to fall into bruxism.
Another popular practice for bruxism is to invest in a mouth guard for teeth grinding. Mouth guards have become increasingly popular, as these tools can reduce certain behaviors while you sleep. For bruxism sufferers, night guards are similar in shape and feel to retainers, protecting your teeth from rubbing while you sleep. Patients can also purchase mouth guards custom-made for their teeth by visiting a dentist, or non-custom (and usually more affordable) online.
While a mouth guard may help to prevent further damage to your teeth, get yourself tested for sleep apnea, especially if there is already significant damage to your teeth. Bruxism is a natural response the body uses to reopen a collapsed airway, such as during sleep apnea. Seek medical attention to determine if your bruxism has an underlying cause. Your dentist can determine the extent of the damage at your regular dental appointments.
Chief editor here at Snore Nation and a proud father of two cool boys. I am a reformed snorer, a reformed smoker, a reformed overeater, a reformed city dweller and a reformed workaholic stress monster on the mission to share my insider tips to restore that quality sleep for you and your partner!