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How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth: Solutions and Suggestions

9 min read
by Dylan Hao |

In movies, when someone gets really angry, they show their feelings by grinding their teeth and growling a la the Incredible Hulk. This image is exaggerated for most of us, but still, we use our teeth to release strong emotions.

When you do this frequently, whether you realize it or not, you could have a condition called bruxism. 

The consequences of bruxism can include damage to your teeth, so you must find a way to stop consistent clenching and grinding movements.

But how do you stop doing something you don’t realize you’re doing? 

Whether you’re unconsciously grinding your teeth at night or have awake bruxism, there are things you can do to reduce the damage from teeth grinding.

Understand Why You Grind

Chances are, you’re not clenching your teeth to get ready to release your inner Hulk. But there is a reason your jaw muscles tighten up, and your teeth clenching commences.

Common Reasons for Bruxism

Whether professionally or self-diagnosed, teeth grinding shouldn’t be ignored. The side effects that come with the behaviors can be dangerous and long-lasting.

To figure out where to start in your search for a solution, let’s look at some of the most common causes of bruxism in adults.

Dental Health Issues

If it’s dental problems causing your clenching, that could be a good or a bad thing. Some dental issues are easy fixes, while others are more time-consuming and complex.

Bruxism can stem from malocclusions, abnormal bites that keep your upper and lower teeth from connecting correctly. Missing teeth can cause the same problem, as the teeth aren’t aligning correctly. 

This misalignment causes your jaw to clench and grind unnaturally, wearing away at the enamel of your teeth.

Malocclusions typically require the help of an orthodontist to correct. The good news is that they can be fixed with the proper treatment and time. Implants and other dental restorative options can help with missing teeth.

Strong Emotions

How do you handle it when feelings like anxiety, stress, fear, or anger take control of your body? Do you have a normal outlet to release them, like exercise or meditation?

If your go-to method for dealing with your emotions is to ignore them, join the crowd! Like many other people, we often push our feelings aside to deal with “later” because we have so much else going on at the time.

But later rarely comes, and those feelings need action to release them. This relates to the stress hormone in your body called cortisol.

When your body feels stress, anxiety, or other intense emotions, it releases cortisol. The hormone is beneficial because it tells you you’re in danger and activates the “fight or flight” response. 

But too much cortisol is unhealthy. The only way to release it is through physical activity. If you’re not doing this purposefully with stress management or exercise techniques, your body may do it for you with grinding.

Lifestyle Habits

Certain lifestyle habits activate jaw clenching behavior. 

The underlying cause of your bruxism could stem from something you’re doing by choice. Changing these habits may be just the ticket you need to reduce your teeth grinding.

Some of these common bruxism roots include:

Caffeine

 

Drinking too much caffeine, which stimulates your muscles, especially when you’re sleeping and not engaging in outlets to release the caffeine.

Alcohol

 

Drinking alcohol triggers your muscles to activate while you’re sleeping and can cause dehydration, both of which increase grinding.

Tobacco

 

Using tobacco products with nicotine that stimulates the muscles; according to studies, heavy tobacco users tend to be twice as likely to grind their teeth.

Using recreational drugs increases the muscle activity, but also speeds up enamel erosion and tooth decay.

While these are frequently found to be the origin of a grinder’s problem, there are other causes, too. Talk to your doctor or dentist about your condition if you’re not sure where it’s coming from.

Symptoms of Bruxism

Is that tension headache you keep waking up with from bruxism? If you recognize the other symptoms of the condition, you can connect the dots and put them all together.

Signs of bruxism include temporomandibular joint disorders (better known as TMD, that occur in the TMJ, that spot where your lower jaw connects to your skull). 

Also included are oral health problems like tooth pain, fatigue, and facial, neck, and/or jaw pain.

You may also have frequent headaches or earaches, particularly when you wake up in the morning. 

You want the side effects to go away, no matter what they are, and there are a few methods you can try to make this happen at home.

What’s Stress Got to Do With It? Find out how stress can lead to bruxism. 

At-Home Solutions

Close-up of hands holding a mug of tea with lemon

If you’re just noticing problems that could be due to bruxism, the fix might be something simple that you can do from home.

Try one or all of these inexpensive or free solutions to see if they help.

Oral Health Suggestions

If you think the problem could be related to your dental health, first, start ramping up your dental routine. Brush and floss twice a day with professional-recommended toothpaste and add mouthwash. 

Good oral hygiene habits reduce bacteria and improve eroding tooth enamel. A consistent regime may help get rid of the sensitivity that was causing the jaw muscles to clench.

Another smart solution to halt the damage to your teeth and muscles is a night guard. Your upper and lower teeth will close naturally as you sleep but not touch when your oral appliance is custom-fit for your mouth. 

A night guard could train your jaw to relax, reducing clenching and grinding, and trains your body to stop those behaviors. 

However, make sure you use a custom-made night guard with high-quality material, like our own here at JS Dental. Symptoms and consequences can worsen when a guard doesn’t fit teeth correctly, as is often the case with over-the-counter mouth guards.

Stress Reduction Suggestions

Stress is a daily part of our lives in various forms. If you aren’t managing them, those cortisol levels that come with it can cause significant problems

A few simple at-home stress reduction suggestions include:

  • Skipping screen time and switching to quiet meditation or reading at least an hour before bed for better sleep and more time to decompress
  • Journaling throughout the day as stressful situations crop up in your mind
  • Taking a relaxing warm bath in a dark, candlelit room with calming scents like lavender or chamomile surrounding you
  • Drinking caffeine-free, calming herbal tea

Anything that you notice relaxes you and doesn’t stimulate your brain is a stress-relieving outlet. 

Lifestyle Changes

Finally, if any of the above-listed lifestyle habits are potentially making your bruxism worse, it’s time to start breaking them.

Keep in mind that it’s much easier to develop a habit than it is to break one. So, for example, if you’re trying to quit smoking cold turkey, it’s possible to do this, but very difficult. 

If you replace the cigarette habit with something else that’s healthy, you’ll likely have faster success. 

For instance, if you love reading, pick up a book and read for ten minutes when you want to smoke (or insert any other favorite healthy activity). It will distract you from that craving, and slowly train your brain to stop the habit. But if reading isn’t your thing, check out this article to see how to quit those addictive habits.

Modifying habits slightly will go a long way in your journey to stop teeth grinding. As mentioned earlier, try swapping out one habit with something healthier. 

For example, if you need a caffeine fix, skip the daily sugar-loaded mega frappe concoction from your barista and start making your own cup of joe at home. Slowly eliminate the extra sugars and sweeteners, then switch to decaf. 

Use this trick for all of your “bad” habits, and you’ll become overall healthier. Pro tip: Don’t chew gum as a habit replacement. This could cause pain in your facial muscles and make your grinding increase.

Read also: 7 Things to Add to Your Bedtime Checklist

Expert Help Suggestions

Close-up of a well-dressed man writing notes by a laptop

Sometimes, our issues are beyond the at-home fix and need expert help. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for assistance. In fact, the quickest route to a solution is often going to the professionals to find out what’s wrong and how to solve it.

Specialists for Bruxism Correction

The type of specialist you need to see depends on the reason behind your grinding. 

If you’re not positive about the origin, start with your medical doctor. They’ll give you a general direction as to what’s causing the problem, and where to go to fix it. 

Here are some probable recommendations for treatment options that you may see.

The Dentist

For bite corrections, cavities, implants, enamel restoration, and other dentistry concerns, schedule a visit with your dentist. 

They may refer you to a dental specialist, like an orthodontist or an oral surgeon, but you’ll be on the right path. 

A Counselor

Stress relief can be managed with mental health counseling. When you find a counselor that you connect with, they can teach you how to put your troubles in perspective. They don’t magically fix your issues, but they do show you strategies to use to control stress and establish boundaries.

Conservative Therapists

Bruxism with an origin of muscle pain or TMJ disorders can benefit from conservative treatment, like physical therapy, TMJ exercises, and massage. 

A physical therapist teaches you how to manage your daily activities to avoid irritating the problem area. A TMJ or TMD specialist will show you exercises to heal the joints and decrease the grinding causing your sore jaw. 

Massage therapists work out the knots and kinks in your muscles that are irritating your body and creating cortisol-induced pain. 

These conservative bruxism treatments will take time to see change, but if you stick with them, they can help.

Sleep Disorder Experts

In more extreme situations, bruxism is a side effect of a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea. 

If your doctor thinks you’re suffering from this condition, they’ll likely send you to a sleep disorder expert for further testing.

Addiction Recovery Hotlines and Programs

An addiction is a neuropsychological disorder. It’s an involuntary craving for a substance or activity, and it’s not easy to quit on your own. 

The good news is there are many treatment programs available for nearly any addiction. SAMHSA’s National Helpline has multiple numbers and treatment centers available 24/7/365 waiting for you.

You may also be interested in: Waking Up With Dry Mouth

Understanding Your Night Guard Options

While you’re working on solving the grinding problem, you want to get rid of the pain that’s coming from it. Possibly the most straightforward route to reducing tooth damage is a night guard.

Be careful not to confuse night guard with mouth guard. They’re similar, but have two distinctly different functions. Mouth guards are used primarily in sports. 

They’re designed to be protective devices that reduce or prevent injury to the mouth area, but they are not comfortable enough to wear when you’re sleeping.

Types of Night Guards

You know the difference between mouth guards and the oral appliances you need for bruxism. Yet, when you start searching “night guards,” you see tons of options. 

Which one is right for you?

Look for custom-fit options made from top materials. Over-the-counter or boil-and-bite guards are cheaper, but they’re not going to last as long or do the job as efficiently as a custom-made night guard.

When you use a professional lab like us, you’re getting high-quality products. Our night guards are similar to those you’d get from a dentist, but without the hassle and expense of an office visit.

Our impression kit comes in the mail. You follow the easy-to-use directions to make your personalized mold, then send it back. Within a few days, your custom night guard shows up at your door.

Choosing Your Night Guard

Our JS Dental guards are free from gluten, BPA, Phthalate, Latex, Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfate, and MMA. The material we use is typically PETG (Polyethylene terphthalate).

You can choose from night guards that are:

  • Extra durable for heavy grinders
  • Durable for those who clench rather than grind
  • Hybrid night guard styles for moderate clenching and grinding
  • Soft guards for those who want comfort and flexibility (best for children or very mild cases of bruxism)
  • 3D premium guards offer higher levels of comfort and durability, and are highly recommended for something with TMJ

One of the bonus perks of working with us is that if you’re unsure as to which kind of night guard you need, our professional staff will help you. Email our company, start a live chat, or give us a call, and find out which guards will be best for your individual grinding.

Conclusion

Clenching and grinding your teeth unconsciously is a condition called sleep bruxism. The side effects are never fun, and, if left to continue, can have dangerous consequences.

Stopping the behavior could be as simple as ordering a night guard from us, JS Dental.

Work with the professionals, consider making at-home and lifestyle changes, and don’t give up! Your grinding will slowly go away with consistency.

Learn how using a custom-fit night guard from JS Dental can help you stop grinding your teeth today.

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