Bruxism is the involuntary habitual grinding, biting, and clenching of the teeth that often occurs while sleeping. According to cross-sectional survey studies and self-reports, sleep-related bruxism affects 8 to 10 percent of adults and 15 to 40 percent of children. It is known to be far more common among children, particularly around growth spurts or when losing baby teeth.
People of all ages may grind their teeth from time to time with only mild and temporary side effects and may not even be aware they do it until someone else draws their attention to it. Other people, though, do end up with headaches, earaches, jaw discomfort, or tooth damage from their involuntary teeth grinding.
Should You Consult With a Medical Doctor?
If you are aware of a bruxism struggle in your home, consider this: Teeth grinding may be a side effect of prescribed medication or a part of a behavioral or sleep disorder. If you suspect any of these is to blame in your case, consult with a medical doctor. Based on your specific symptoms and stressors, your physician may take one of these approaches:
- Muscle relaxers: medication can help you to relax and muscle relaxers can relax the muscles of the jaw and stop involuntary grinding. Talk to you doctor if you are taking antidepressants because they could be the cultprit to developing bruxism.
- Behavioral strategies: Psychologists work with patients to identify triggers and address them through stress management and relaxation training. There is technology for doctors to show patients how relaxing technique help relax muscles.
Could Self-Care and Dental Treatments Work for You?
In most cases, bruxism is a result of common stressors or lifestyle choices that are within your control. You can outgrow it or manage it with some self-care and dental treatments. If you are interested in more information on self-care tips or dental treatments for teeth grinding, read on.
Self-Care Tips to Stop Bruxism
Here are suggested self-care tips you could try that may provide you or your child relief from bruxism, or involuntary teeth grinding.
Take Deep Breathes
Stress may be the number one cause of bruxism or grinding your teeth at night. So whether you are aware of what is stressing you out or you are not, try to breathe it out. A few deep breaths before bed or throughout the day can work wonders.
Learn to Unwind
Some people may need to talk through their stressful issues with a trusted friend, family member, or professional psychologist. Another idea is to adjust your nightly routine and do something that calms you down and puts your mind at ease. Here are some ideas:
- Avoid computer and phone screens at least an hour before bed
- Avoid intense mental stimulation
- Read a book
- Watch a calming TV show (ending an hour before bed)
- Listen to calming music
- Take 10-15 minutes to enjoy doing nothing
- Drink a cup of decaffeinated tea or other warm drink
Take a break from Alcohol and Caffeine
Not all, but some people will find they grind their teeth a lot more after drinking alcohol before bed. Likewise, people who drink a lot of caffeine throughout the day will notice it interferes with a peaceful night’s sleep. It may not be easy, but try to go a few days without these beverages. You may find after a few days that your jaw muscles are not as tight at night and you no longer wake up with headaches.
Gently Massage Your Jaw
Taking five minutes to gently massage your jaw can help alleviate pressure and pain in your jaw. You can also try a heating pad, hot bath, or hot shower, especially at night before bed, to relax your muscles and calm yourself before lying down to sleep.
Avoid Chewing Gum all day
Chewing an occasional piece of gum for a brief period can be refreshing. But it is best to not chew gum or chewy foods like taffy or jerky for too long. Chewing too much will exhaust your jaw and could bring on bruxism at night. Cutting back on gum chewing may not eliminate bruxism entirely, but it will help.
Don’t Bite on Your Pens, Pencils, Straws, or Toothpicks
Chewing on things you should not chew on can cause tooth pain and damage. It can cause your jaw muscles to cramp or strain. It can also cause a habit of clenching when stressed. At night when you’re trying to relax, your brain doesn’t know whether to bite down on something or not. Instead of biting on objects, find other ways to fidget, or chew on soft foods.
Add a New Physical Activity or Hobby
Exercise and physical activity for at least 15-30 minutes each day has positive effects on both physical and mental health. A creative hobby can also transform your thinking and transport you from a stressful place to a place you are looking forward to.
Treatments for Teeth Grinding
Treatment for bruxism depends on your symptoms and the underlying cause. Some adults and children may not need treatment from a dentist. However, if you’re suffering from bruxism and you have already tried the self-care tips for a few weeks without significant improvement, consider a custom mouth guard to help prevent further oral damages.
Try a Mouth Guard for Bruxism
We will custom make your bruxism mouth guard (or night guard) fit your mouth perfectly. It is similar to an athletic mouth guard (which we also offer), but it’s designed to work in different ways. Bruxism mouth guards are designed to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
Off-the-shelf mouth guards do not work as well because they are not custom-fitted to your mouth. This can cause future complications. Our custom-fit mouth guards have a much higher success rate for treating bruxism.
We offer a mouth guard designed for bruxism sufferers. All of our mouth guards are custom fit to our patients. We would be happy to discuss your needs with you. Contact us at Lexington Family Smiles or schedule an appointment online.
While our bruxism mouth guards are effective in preventing additional damage, they are not a cure for bruxism. You may still want to consult with a medical doctor regarding your case.