7 Easy Tips on How to Stop Teeth Grinding at Night
What is teeth grinding ?
Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, is a very common condition that affects approximately 20 percent of children and adults.
The most common signs of teeth grinding are extremely worn teeth and/or pain in the jaws when patients wake up from a night's sleep.
Before we give you some important tips on how to control this condition, let's see what causes teeth grinding and why is this condition harmful to your teeth.
You can jump straight to our infographic on how to stop grinding teeth at night.
When is teeth grinding harmful ?
Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time, but occasional teeth grinding does not usually cause any harm. For example, occasional teeth grinding can occur during the day, when a person is concentrating on a task, such as lifting a heavy object, driving the car, reading or writing something important.
However, when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis (especially when it is done unconsciously in the sleep), the teeth can be damaged and other oral health complications can arise.
Why do people grind their teeth ?
Teeth grinding is most common in adults between the ages of 25 and 44. The causes of bruxism are not always very clear, but it is generally agreed that bruxism is usually linked to other factors, such as stress and anxiety or sleep problems. However, teeth grinding can sometimes occur as a side effect of taking certain types of medication or as a result of certain lifestyle factors.
Stress and anxiety
Studies have shown that an important amount of cases of sleep bruxism are caused by stress or anxiety, which affects people subconsciously while they are asleep. For example, high levels of work or other episodes that cause stress can have a significant adverse effect on the sleep and trigger episodes of sleep bruxism.
Moreover, being stressed or anxious may also cause you to clench your jaw or grind your teeth on a regular basis during the day, with an equally negative effect.
People who snore or have a sleep disorder, known as obstructive sleep apnea, are more likely to grind their teeth while they are asleep. Obstructive sleep apnea causes breathing to be interrupted while you sleep.
The link between bruxism and sleep apnea has only been identified recently. Some researchers even suggest that sleep apnea is the most important factor that causes teeth grinding during the sleep, as grinding is an instinctual response that helps us survive.
Bruxism can sometimes occur as a side effect of taking certain types of medication. These include some psychotropic medicines that affect your mood, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Although there is an increased risk of developing bruxism if you are taking these medications, you may not develop any symptoms.
Some lifestyle factors can also increase the chances of developing bruxism. These include:
- drinking alcohol excessively
- drinking a lot of caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee or colas
- recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine
Why is teeth grinding harmful ?
Teeth grinding can cause many dental problems such as fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. Severe cases of bruxism may wear teeth down, which can result in short teeth and an increased tooth sensitivity. In such situations, you may need dental treatment to avoid further problems. These treatments may include bridges, crowns, root canals, implants and even dentures.
Moreover, bruxism can also affect dental restorations, increasing the risk of fractured or loosened fillings, dental crowns or bridges, and dental implants. As a general rule, dental implants should not be placed until this condition is properly treated.
Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and dental restorations, it can also affect your jaws, cause or worsen Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (the joint of the jaw), and even change the appearance of your face.
How do I find out if I grind my teeth ?
Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. A dull, constant headache and/or pain in the jaws when you wake up are the most common symptoms of teeth grinding.
Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their partners, who hears the grinding at night. Other possible symptoms of teeth grinding include earache, facial muscle pain or tightness and stiffness in the shoulders.
If you have one of these symptoms, or if you notice that your teeth are worn, you should see your dentist. He or she will examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and excessive wear on your teeth and help you treat this condition.
How to stop grinding teeth at night ?
The first thing you need to do if you notice any signs of teeth grinding is to inform your dentist. He or she will recommend one or more treatment options depending on the causes of your bruxism.
But there are also many things you can do to help prevent or stop this condition.
As promised, here are seven tips that will help you control and/or treat teeth grinding. These include easy-to-perform home remedies as well as more advanced procedures that should be carried out at the dental practice.
- Reduce stress
- Avoid stimulating substances in the evening
- Avoid bad habits during the day
- Practice good sleep habits
- Wear mouth guards or mouth splints to control the condition
- Treat the underlying cause
- Have regular dental checkups
Now, let's go through this step-by-step.
Lifestyle and home remedies that help you stop teeth grinding
High levels of stress can have a significant adverse effect on the sleep and may trigger episodes of sleep bruxism. Listening to music, taking a warm bath or trying some relaxation exercises can help you relax and may reduce the risk of teeth grinding during your sleep.
Avoid stimulating substances in the evening
Cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, tea, and coffee and try to avoid them in the evening. Moreover, teeth grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption, so try to cut back on your alcohol before you go to bed.
It would be a good idea to give up smoking and to avoid using recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine.
Avoid bad habits during the day
Do not chew pens, pencils and other non-food items and try to cut back on chewing gum if you know you suffer from bruxism. These habits will allow your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and they may trigger episodes of teeth grinding during your sleep as well.
If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, try to break the habit by relaxing your jaw muscles. A good tip is to position the tip of your tongue between your teeth; this practice can train your jaw muscles to relax.
Practice good sleep habits
Getting a good night's sleep is essential in reducing your stress and controlling this condition. Try to relax before you go to bed by having a warm bath, listening to music or reading a good book.
If you are still having sleep problems, try talking to a sleep specialist who may help you treat your sleep issues.
If you are aware that you grind your teeth during your sleep, try to hold a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe before you go to bed: this will help relax your jaw muscles.
Mouth guards and mouth splints
Mouth guards and splints may help reduce muscle activity in your jaw at night; however, they are only able to control the condition, not cure it.
A mouth guard is a specially made, rubber-like cover, which fits exactly over your teeth and gums; it is similar in appearance to the one used to protect teeth from injury during sports.
mouth guard for teeth grinding
mouth guard for teeth grinding inside the mouth
The mouth guard will create a barrier between your upper and lower teeth to protect them from damage, such as fracturing, loosening or excessive teeth wear. Moreover, a mouth guard can even out the pressure across your jaw and help reduce any grinding noises you make at night.
A mouth guard can be custom made by your dentist to fit your mouth. A custom-made mouth guard provides the most comfort and protection; therefore, it is not advisable to buy a stock mouth guard from your pharmacist or another store as it is unlikely to fit as well as the one made by your dentist.
Mouth splints are made from harder plastic, but they are no more effective than mouth guards in reducing the symptoms of bruxism. However, they tend to last for more years; mouth splints are also more expensive.
Treating the underlying cause
Besides wearing a mouth guard during the night, treating the underlying cause should be the key point of the entire approach. Bruxism is generally caused by stress and anxiety or a sleeping disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.
a. Stress and anxiety
If stress and anxiety are the problems, a course of cognitive behavioral therapy may be recommended. A specially trained therapist will help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and how you act.
Moreover, if your bruxism is stress related, it is important that you try to relax and get a good night's sleep. There are a number of things you can do to help you wind down before you go to bed. These include:
- have a warm bath
- listen to music
- try muscle-relaxation exercises
- in more severe cases, you can also try to obtain a prescription for muscle relaxants
b. Sleeping disorder
Today, many dental researchers believe that the main cause of teeth grinding during the night is a sleeping disorder called sleep apnea. This condition causes breathing to be interrupted during the sleep.
Researchers studied brain scans of people with a partial blockage in their airways while they slept and they noticed that it was teeth grinding that reopened the airway and got the study participants breathing again.
The new understanding is that, in order to treat teeth grinding, you have to treat the root cause — and that is the obstruction of the airway. Once you remove the need to grind, teeth grinding stops.
Therefore, if a sleeping disorder is causing the grinding, treating it may reduce or eliminate the grinding habit. Talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study to get a diagnosis for sleep apnea from a sleep specialist.
c. Bruxism as a side effect
If you develop bruxism as a side effect of taking antidepressant medication, talk to your GP; he may suggest changing your medication. However, you should never stop taking medication that's been prescribed for you without consulting your GP first.
Have regular dental checkups
It is very important to visit your dentist on a regular basis so that any problems caused by your teeth grinding are treated as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
Most of the times, dental problems, such as misaligned, cracked, crooked or missing teeth, can be treated with reconstructive dental treatments. Sometimes, in the case of a severe crack, you may need to have root canal treatment.
Webmd.com: Dental Health and Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Ask the Dentist by Dr. Mark Burhenne The Real Reason You Grind Your Teeth
Mayo Clinic: Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Colgate.com - Oral Care Center: Teeth Grinding: How To Stop Grinding Your Teeth At Night!
Last review and update: February 2019