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6 Alternatives to Muscle Relaxants for Bruxism

8 min read
by Dylan Hao |

One solution to bruxism (teeth grinding) is a muscle relaxant. Whether in prescription medication or natural supplement form, a muscle relaxer acts like a sedative, keeping the nerves from signaling pain to the brain and stopping your skeletal muscles from tightening. 

Common medicines for bruxism include cyclobenzaprine (Amrix and Fexmid), diazepam (Valium), Soma, Skelaxin, Zanaflex, and Robaxin. 

But these meds are notoriously habit-forming and addictive.

If you’d rather not use muscle relaxants, there are many other ways to treat bruxism and prevent damage. Here, we’ll discuss 6 alternatives.

1. Occlusal Splints

Occlusal splints are the official term for a device you may know as a night guard.

Like retainers, these are worn when you’re sleeping to cover the surfaces of your upper or lower teeth. Unlike retainers, they’re not intended to control the placement or shifting of your smile.

It’s important to understand that night guards don’t stop the bruxing behaviors.

(For that to happen, you’ll need to work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing them.)

However, they do prevent the grinding from causing damage to the enamel.

Types of Oral Appliances 

Finding the occlusal splint that’s right for you is the first step in your night guard journey.

There are various types of oral appliances to sift through. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to assume one is the same as another, but they’re not.

In your search, you’ll see sports mouth guards. Those are designed for contact sports only. 

You’ll also come across boil-and-bite and one-size-fits-most night guards you can buy on Amazon or over the counter. Those are night guards, but they can cause more harm than good because they aren’t customized to your mouth’s specific shape. Since they’re made from cheaper materials, they won’t last as long as a well-made night guard, either.

Custom-Made Night Guards

What you need is a high-quality, professional, custom-fit night guard. These are made from an impression of your mouth, so the bite, shape, arch, and teeth coverings are tailored specially to you. 

They’re available at your dentist’s office — but those will likely cost you hundreds of dollars for the visits and appliance fitting.

Instead, you can get the same type of night guard online from us at JS Dental Lab for a fraction of the cost, and you don’t even have to leave your house.

Once you decide you want a custom-made night guard, the next question is whether you need a soft, hard, or hybrid oral appliance. Ours are made from the highest grade PETG, TPU, and EVA materials. 

Soft Night Guards

Soft guards are the most comfortable but are typically reserved for mild bruxers.

Hard Night Guards

Hard guards are at the other end — not as comfortable, but they’re more durable for severe bruxing. 

Hybrid Night Guards

Most bruxism cases fall somewhere in between, and hybrid guards are ideal for those people. Hybrid night guards are more comfortable than hard guards but durable enough to withstand moderate grinding.

At JS Dental Lab, our friendly experts will help you determine which oral appliance is best for your needs. Night guards can be used alone or with other bruxing treatments, depending on your situation.

2. Sleep Treatments

Wearing a night guard in your sleep can improve your rest because the grinding and clenching don’t wake you up. But it’s a Catch-22 because your sleep habits can play a distinct role in the severity of your bruxism. 

Studies show that over 50 million people in the US have some type of sleep disorder. These range from mild tossing and turning and restless sleep to more severe insomnia and dangerous conditions like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA happens when the upper airways collapse, requiring extra effort to get oxygen in and out of the arteries. Without help, OSA can lead to:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Death

OSA and bruxism are frequently linked together, but if you do have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor before you add a night guard or any other changes to your routine.

There are specially designed oral appliances for those with OSA and bruxism that can help reduce the bruxing damage while still treating the breathing issues associated with OSA.

Sleep Hygiene Practices for Better Rest

However, should you fall into the category of the many others with bruxism-related fatigue, better rest could be a simple sleep habit change away. 

Everyone’s sleeping needs are unique to them, but here are some simple tips that should help improve your quality of rest:

  • Quit using tobacco: Nicotine is a stimulant that stays in your system while you sleep and triggers your jaw muscles to clench and grind.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evenings: Like nicotine, caffeine is a stimulant that will trigger jaw muscle activity. Alcohol is a depressant that can help you fall asleep, but it reduces the quality of rest, often waking you up in the middle of the night.
  • Get plenty of physical activity: Exercise helps eliminate the stress hormones that cause bruxing, like cortisol and adrenaline. However, adjust your physical activity to earlier in the day, or it could make you more alert instead of rested.
  • Create a calming and dark bedtime environment with minimal clutter: Avoid activities that stimulate the brain, including watching TV or phone scrolling.

One more sleep and wellness tip is to include stress-relieving activities in your day, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, music, or walks in nature. If you enjoy a hobby, give yourself permission (and time) to indulge, and you’ll notice improvements in your bruxing behaviors without muscle relaxants.

3. Psychotherapy

A curly haired woman psychotherapist in session with a client

There is a significant link between bruxism and stress — such a strong link, in fact, that stress skyrockets your chance of bruxing by 97%!

Psychotherapy is an effective treatment option for stress management, which impacts your bruxing behaviors. In therapy, you not only have a confidential space to share your thoughts and emotions but you’re also taught strategies to handle external and internal stressors. If necessary, your doctor may suggest antidepressants.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In CBT, your therapist works with you to determine what your stressors are and how to handle them in healthier ways. As you address the stress, you reduce the cortisol and adrenaline that cause bruxing. CBT is frequently used to treat anxiety, depression, disorders, and phobias.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Another type of therapy that can assist with bruxing reduction is psychodynamic. This treatment helps you determine what thought patterns and behaviors are linked and change the actions or thoughts. This long-term therapy is used for more severe types of mental health conditions.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is also beneficial for bruxing because it focuses on your actions. Through this type of treatment, you create new patterns in place of old, unhealthy habits.

It often works well for anxiety and phobias. Additionally, behavioral therapy makes you aware of your habits, like jaw clenching, which can decrease muscle tension and reduce grinding.

4. Training, Exercise, and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy may be recommended if your bruxism is associated with muscle pain and stiffness. Like all our muscles, when you overuse the facial and jaw area, this overwork can cause tearing, swelling, or dislocation. 

Learning how to exercise and stretch the TMJ, tendons, and muscles in your jaw area can stop the pain and reduce bruxing.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques train you to relax the muscle group voluntarily. These exercises include awareness of triggers and your tongue and teeth positions to catch and stop the negative movements.

Your physical therapist can teach you these methods, as well as lifestyle changes, to reduce strain on the jaw muscles.


Biofeedback uses positive feedback to teach you how to reduce tension and unlearn negative behaviors, resulting in long-term changes. With this technique, specialists monitor bruxism using electronic detection.

When the bruxing behaviors occur, a stimulus is applied, making the patient aware of the movement and putting them back in control.

Contingent Electrical Stimulation

If those methods don’t work, you can talk to your doctor about contingent electrical stimulation (CES). This newer technique decreases the activity of the jaw and facial muscles through low-level electrical stimulation.

5. Injections

Young woman getting an injection into her face to help her bruxism.

You’ve heard of Botox for wrinkles and migraines, but for bruxing? Yes!

Short for botulinum toxin, botox injections are used for cosmetic and medicinal treatments like bruxism. They stop the production of a chemical called acetylcholine and block calcium channels in nerve endings, two actions that reduce muscle contraction.

Botox is an effective treatment for bruxism because it relaxes the muscles responsible for clenching. If you have chronic muscle spasms or tension from your old behaviors that are causing headaches and neck pain, the relaxant injections should help ease those up, too. 

The effects of your injections typically show up from 1-3 days afterward and can last 3-6 months. During that period, your jaw muscles and the interconnected body parts have plenty of time to rest.

This could be the perfect opportunity to handle any tooth damage issues that resulted from the bruxism, such as fillings or other restorations for tooth wear, as part of your healthcare treatment plan.

6. Occlusal Adjustments and Equilibration Therapy

When all else fails, the reason for your bruxism could be due to a malocclusion (or improper bite). Moderate and severe malocclusions are generally treated with orthodontics, but mild “bad bites” are easy to ignore — until they lead to more substantial dental issues.

The Trouble With Bad Bites

When your upper and lower teeth don’t align the way they’re supposed to, the mouth doesn’t close correctly. This isn’t a big deal until you’re chewing or grinding your teeth.

Then, it can result in too much stress on one or more teeth, putting unnecessary strain on the teeth, gums, and jaw, as well as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). 

The TMJ is what permits your mouth to open and close and move side-to-side. Chronic grinding and clenching, as with bruxism, puts significant bite force on this delicate joint, and it all stems from those crooked teeth. Treatment for these improper bites could be something called occlusal equilibration.

Occlusal Equilibration

The term may sound intimidating, but don’t let the name fool you.

Occlusal equilibration, also called occlusal adjustment, refers to a type of therapy that corrects TMJ disorders caused by an improper bite surface, a common side effect of bruxism.

This treatment reshapes the teeth to correct the biting surface and permit the jaw to close naturally, relieving TMJ pain. This is accomplished during an in-office procedure in which the specialist grinds down the surfaces of the teeth in question to improve the upper and lower bite contact.

Occlusal equilibration can be completed along with other temporomandibular disorder (TMD) treatments or by itself. It isn’t reversible, so this procedure is usually only suggested for serious malocclusions that cause jaw pain and severe bruxism symptoms.

However, once occlusal adjustments and their associated treatments are completed, you shouldn’t need muscle relaxants anymore.


When you’re dealing with facial pain caused by bruxing, it’s understandable that you want quick pain relief.

However, the reprieve from muscle relaxants is short-term at best and can cause dangerous, addictive side effects at worst.

Long-term solutions start with determining your cause of bruxism and then working with natural, medical, and dentistry treatments to find what works for you. Rather than taking the medication route, consider trying one or more of these six alternatives to muscle relaxants.

Head over to JS Dental Lab today to get started with a custom-made night guard!

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