Many people don’t realize they grind or clench their teeth at night until complications develop. Bruxism, a sleep disorder where the teeth are unconsciously clenched, can result in chipped or loosened teeth, jaw, neck or face pain, or even earache or a headache. Factors that increase the chance of bruxism include:
- Increased anxiety or stress
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- Caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or smoking tobacco
- Some medications and medical disorders such as dementia or epilepsy
Are there ways you can try and eliminate nighttime teeth grinding, protect your smile, and reduce the symptoms of bruxism? Yes! Several approaches are worth considering to help minimize the effects of teeth grinding.
Reduce Stress One Step at a Time
While sometimes easier said than done, you will achieve many benefits from reducing the stress in your everyday life, particularly the benefit of reduced teeth grinding at night. Focus on using strategies that promote relaxation, such as breathing techniques and meditation. Consider starting an exercise program if you are not regularly exercising. You might even consider stress counseling to help you cope with stress and anxieties that can build up during the day and affect your sleep at night.
Exercise Even Your Jaw!
With so many muscles in the face, they can become overused or be overly tense. Work to consciously relax your face and jaw throughout the day by taking a 5-minute break every other hour to help identify the muscles that might be overly tight, then incorporate face and jaw exercises that stretch and then release each muscle group.
If you notice you’re clenching your teeth, try and put the end of your tongue between your teeth to train your jaw to relax. Massage these muscles to relieve tension and trigger points.
Keep Objects Out
Do you find yourself biting on a pencil or chewing your fingernails? These are habits to stop! Even chewing gum works the mouth and jaw unnecessarily and can cause tension and fatigue in these muscles. Practice keeping everything out of your mouth besides when you have a drink or eat food. Give these muscles a chance to relax and try to not nibble idly on a ballpoint pen while you’re at work!
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
You may not realize it but too much alcohol and caffeine will increase the urge to clench your teeth and cause undue stress. Caffeine and alcohol stimulate your body and make your unnecessarily tense and agitated. Try and cut down on your alcohol and caffeine intake as you work, instead, on relaxing your body and reducing stressors.
Get a Mouthguard for Use at Night
Sometimes, although you work to change your behavior, you will still find it difficult to stop teeth grinding during the night. In this case, talk to your dentist about a custom night guard. Custom-made night guards can help protect you from the effects of bruxism and minimize the damage to your teeth. Combined with the other strategies, night mouth guards can aid as you manage sleep bruxism and protect your smile.
Are you experiencing the effects of nighttime teeth grinding or uncertain of how to deal with bruxism? We are here to help! Contact us for an appointment for an evaluation and to consider the best options for you to protect your smile.