Do you wake up in the morning with a headache or jaw pain? Has your dentist mentioned that your surface enamel looks worn? Chances are you may suffer from bruxism, or nighttime teeth grinding or clenching. According to the American Sleep Association, 10 percent of adults and 15 percent of children in America suffer from bruxism. While most cases of teeth grinding are not severe, the symptoms can affect daily life and overall health. But can you stop teeth grinding? The answer is maybe. There is no cure for bruxism and any treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms. But even if you can’t stop the grinding, you can take steps to protect your teeth.
Rule Out Underlying Causes
If you or your dentist suspect teeth grinding, the first step is to rule out any underlying conditions that may be contributing. Some of these include:
- Sleep Disorders – Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, snoring, and even sleep talking have been linked to bruxism. According to The Bruxism Association, obstructive sleep apnea seems to have the highest risk factor for teeth grinding. If your dentist or physician suspects sleep apnea, a sleep study can help confirm this diagnosis. Once treatment addresses the sleep apnea, you may find your teeth grinding stops.
- Dental Problems – Your bite and tooth alignment can also be an underlying cause of tooth grinding. Depending on the severity of your issues, braces or jaw surgery can provide a normal alignment and often put an end to teeth grinding.
- Medications – Certain medications can lead to teeth grinding. Talk with your doctor about any medications you take and see if this could be a potential side effect. If so, your doctor may be able to prescribe a similar medication without the side effect.
- Medical Conditions – Certain medical conditions, such as Huntington’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, increase the risk of teeth grinding. If you have one of these conditions, talk to your doctor and dentist about protecting your teeth and reducing your teeth grinding. Certain medications, such as muscle relaxants or BOTOX injections, can help reduce nighttime grinding.
Reducing your stress levels is often enough to reduce your nighttime teeth grinding. However, wearing a teeth grinding guard from SportingSmiles at night while you work to reduce your stress will help protect your teeth and reduce symptoms.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Once you have ruled out any underlying medical or dental conditions, take a look at your lifestyle and see if any of the common bruxism triggers are present. These can include:
- Stress – There is a big connection between stress and teeth grinding. People who suppress their emotions, suffer from extreme stress, have type A or hyperactive personalities, or suffer from depression or anxiety are more prone to nighttime teeth grinding. Consider taking up yoga, meditation, or even a regular massage to help deal with stress. This may be enough to reduce teeth grinding.
- Sleep Position – How you sleep can increase your chances of nighttime teeth grinding. Sleeping on your side or stomach can put pressure on your jaw and increase the chances of teeth grinding. Try turning over and sleeping on your back.
- Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant that can promote muscle activity for up to six hours after consumption. This muscle activity can contribute to grinding at night. Avoid caffeine consumption in the evenings and before bed.
- Alcohol – Alcohol consumption can intensify bruxism. While you may think a glass of wine before bed helps you sleep, the truth is alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns. This disruption can hyperactivate muscles and increase the chance of grinding. Reducing or eliminating evening drinks may help.
- Tobacco Use – Tobacco is a stimulant and, as a smoker, you are twice as likely to grind your teeth at night compared to a non-smoker. Reducing or quitting smoking can help reduce symptoms.
- Recreational Drugs – Drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and heroine are stimulants and, like tobacco, increase episodes of bruxism.
Try Bruxism Exercises
Bruxism exercises, similar to physical therapy, target both the causes and effects of teeth grinding. Awareness exercises help you understand your bruxism triggers and ways to reduce them. Often this is enough to stop the grinding. Focusing on tongue and teeth placement can help reduce daytime grinding. Massages and jaw stretching exercises can help normalize jaw muscles and joints. This can release tension and reduce grinding.
Protect Your Teeth with a Night Guard
The good news is that even if you can’t determine your bruxism triggers or find a way to stop grinding your teeth at night, you can do something to help protect your teeth and alleviate your symptoms. Night guards, also known as dental guards or bite splints, provide a barrier between your upper and lower teeth. This barrier helps lighten the tension and provide a cushion for the jaw muscles, all while protecting the surface of your teeth from the grinding motion that can damage the enamel.
Stock night guards are available at your local drug store, but these can be bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Custom-fitted night guards provide the best protection while still being comfortable enough to wear without disrupting sleep. Your dentist can take a mold of your teeth and make a custom guard within a few weeks, but dental visits can be expensive.
Here at SportingSmiles, we offer a patented self-impression kit that you use at home to make a mold of your teeth. Simply return the mold and our technicians will make your custom nightguard and deliver it back to your door. To learn more about how SportingSmiles can help you protect your teeth and relieve bruxism symptoms, visit HERE.