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30 July 2014

How can I stop grinding my teeth?

Chronic teeth grinding, or bruxism in medical terms, is a condition wherein a person grinds and clenches their teeth from time to time without control. This often occurs during sleep; hence, most people with this condition are unaware that they do have it, if they aren’t informed by a spouse, family member, or friend.

Normal teeth grinding and clenching is not usually harmful, but chronic teeth grinding can cause damage to teeth and other oral health problems. In some extreme cases, it can lead to fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. If not addressed, it could wear the teeth down to stumps. When teeth is damaged due to grinding, the person involved may eventually require dental treatment such as bridges, crowns, implants, root canals, partial dentures, or complete dentures to fix the damage. Over time, it may even affect the jaws, affect loss of hearing, cause or worsen TMD/TMJ (temporomandibular disorder/temporomandibular joint), or even change one’s facial features.

In some cases, teeth grinding is typically caused by stress and anxiety. More often than not, it is likely caused by crooked or missing teeth, or an abnormal bite. Since most people with this condition do not know they have it, one telltale sign of bruxism is a constant dull headache or a sore, tender jaw in the morning after waking up. Majority of those who do know they have this condition have been informed by their loved ones who hear the grinding or have been woken up by the sound of it at night.

If you’ve been informed or suspect that you grind your teeth unconsciously, consult your dentist who will examine your mouth for signs of bruxism. Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard designed to prevent your teeth from grinding while asleep. If you suspect that stress or anxiety is the cause of your teeth grinding, consult your dentist or doctor for advice on how to reduce stress. Other options you may want to try are stress counselling, seeing a physical therapist, signing up for an exercise program, spending time at the gym, or obtaining prescription for muscle relaxants. It’s recommended to exhaust all other feasible options first before resorting to medication such as muscle relaxants.

A healthier diet also plays a huge role in reducing stress. Cut back on caffeine and other stimulants like chocolate, coffee, and soda. Avoid consuming alcohol altogether. Alcohol tends to intensify grinding. Avoid chewing gum and tough food as it results in your jaw getting used to clenching, which makes it easier and more likely for you to grind your teeth.

You can train yourself not to grind or clench your teeth. If you notice that you do it during the day, try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This action helps relax your jaw muscles. At night before going to bed, relax your jaw muscles again. To do this, press a warm washcloth against your cheek, in front of your earlobe.

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