How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth
Up to 30% of the population chronically grinds their teeth, which in dental terms, is called bruxism. This usually occurs at night when the person is sleeping. While this may not sound very serious, the forces that it places on both the teeth and jaw joints are enormous.
Serious or chronic cases of nighttime teeth grinding can result in chipped teeth, cracked teeth, the wearing down of the crowns of the teeth, tooth fracture, tooth loss, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues, chronic migraine headaches, overdeveloped facial muscles (hypertrophic masseter), torticollis (chronically locked neck), and in extreme cases, spinal pain and eventual spinal degeneration.
Most people who chronically grind their teeth are looking for natural ways by which to stop. Even if they're not suffering from extreme symptoms, they may have noticed some wearing away of their tooth surfaces.
Most of the time, dental health professionals will alert you to your habit, but the truth is that most people already know. If you're not sure whether you grind your teeth, check out the symptoms below.
Signs and Symptoms
- Overdeveloped muscles of the jaw, making your jaw appear wide and boxy. Usually, the masseters become hypertrophic (overdeveloped), but sometimes, both the masseters and temporalis muscles can be affected.
- A tired, sore jaw without any other explanation. Usually, this occurs in the morning after getting out of bed. It can hurt or be mildly sore to talk or eat breakfast
- Pain in front of or behind the ear, which is a symptom of jaw joint (TMJ) pain
- Chronic clicking of the TMJ either on one side or both when you open your mouth.
- An inability to open your mouth very widely compared to people around you. The dental term for this is trismus, but the more common term is lockjaw
- Chronically occurring migraine headaches that usually appear in the temporal or temple region of the face
- A grinding or loud tapping sound occurring while you're sleeping. Sometimes this will wake the person up, but usually, it's someone's partner who picks up on this fact
- A chronic tilting of the neck to one side, called torticollis. This can be due to muscle spasms.
- Spinal pain with no known cause
Dental Evidence of Teeth Grinding
- Excessive wear to the crowns of your teeth, otherwise known as the chewing or biting surfaces of the teeth
- Highly sensitive teeth due to the shearing away of the protective layers of the teeth
- Mobility of the teeth from the constant back and forth motion under pressure. This damages the ligaments that hold the teeth in place
- The formation of notches on the teeth near the gum line called abfraction. This is caused by the excessive pressure placed on the teeth while grinding. Enamel is thinnest toward the gum line and just "pops off" when enough pressure is exerted on the teeth
- Chipping or cracking of the teeth due to the immense forces exerted
- Sore teeth due to inflamed periodontal ligaments, the things that hold the teeth in place. These ligaments are what anchors the teeth to the jaw bone
- Lip or cheek bites that have no immediate or forthcoming explanation
Have You Experienced Any Of These Symptoms?
There's really no consensus in the medical or dental world as to what causes people to grind their teeth. This is probably because a range of factors can contribute to this condition. Some of these are listed below:
- Sleep apnea (a sleep disorder)
- Teeth that are misaligned, or a jaw that doesn't align properly
- Side effect of prescribed medications like antipsychotics
- Side effect of illicit drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine
- Pinched nerves in the head, neck, or spine
- Lack of calcium and/or magnesium in the diet that would help relax muscle spasms
- TMJ (jaw joint) issues causing teeth grinding, which, in turn, causes TMJ problems
- Ongoing stress
Do You Grind Your Teeth?
Ways to Stop and Prevent Teeth Grinding
- Don't chew gum or on anything like pens or pencils. This will strengthen the muscles that contribute to teeth grinding.
- Learn to relax your jaw muscles throughout the day. Make a conscious effort.
- Use a nightguard at night. Some people love them and some people hate them, but they're worth trying out to see if they work for you.
- Place a warm/moist towel on your jaw joint before bed. This will help relax the muscles.
- Eat enough calcium and magnesium. A lack of these minerals will cause the jaw to clench.
- Avoid an inflammatory diet (meat, dairy, sugar, gluten, and anything you're sensitive or allergic to).
- Don't use caffeine or illicit stimulant drugs before bedtime.
- Go to a chiropractor to free pinched nerves in your head, neck, and spine.
- Go to a dentist who specializes in TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2015 Kate P