Lots of us clench and grind our teeth at night and we can’t control it because we’re asleep. And of course, there’s a bunch of reasons why clenching and grinding is not good for your overall health. But since this is a dental blog, I’m primarily going to focus on why it’s not good for your teeth and jaw and how to prevent damage by wearing a nightguard.
What Is Bruxism?
Quick background about teeth grinding and clenching, also known as bruxism. In some cases, bruxism can result in fracturing, loosening or loss of teeth. Chronic bruxism may wear teeth down all the way to the stumps. When these events happen bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures and even complete dentures may be needed to replace your teeth. Not only can severe grinding damaged teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaw cause or worsen TMD, TMJ Disorder, and even change the appearance of your face.
To prevent this from happening, if you are clenching or grinding, it is recommended that you wear a nightguard when you sleep and you can get fitted for a custom-fabricated night guard at your dentist’s office. Now I have lots of patients tell me no way when I wear that I’d be afraid to swallow it or I’ll never get used to it or I don’t want to pay for it: It’s expensive.
Afraid to Swallow Night Guard
All valid reasons to be concerned. But let’s talk about each one. I’ll be afraid to swallow it. I assure you if you decide to get a custom-fabricated nightguard made by your dentist, you will not swallow it, it won’t come off with your tongue it is hard to remove it actually you have to use both hands to pop it out. If this is a concern of yours. Talk with your dental provider about the different types they can make to ensure it will snap in and feel secure for you.
Hate Wearing Your Night Guard
Same thing as long as it’s made by your dentist it will fit and over time like anything else you will get used to it it might take time but it is so worth it and saving your teeth from unnecessary crowns and root canals. I’m actually so used to wearing mine now that I can’t even fall asleep without it. It doesn’t feel bulky to me at all. And if you’re nervous about it feeling bulky again, tell your dentist sometimes there are options to make something called an nti where it’s a small piece of plastic that attaches to your front teeth only instead of the full arch. There are all these different options and materials they can use to make it comfortable for you. So just ask )
Night Guard is Too Expensive
I don’t want to pay for it. It’s expensive, totally get it. Some insurances won’t cover it and it can be expensive. The other option is to buy an over-the-counter night guard where you can mold it yourself in your microwave at home.
So if you want one and you can’t afford the custom dental-made one yet, try the one from the drugstore. It can’t hurt to try. And if you think about buying a night guard versus paying for crowns and dental work to fix your teeth because of grinding away your enamel when you sleep, the night guard is the way to go. It will save both your enamel and save your money over time. And having said that, over time, you might need to replace your night guard every five to 10 or 20 years, right it depends on how much you grind through the plastic. I’ve had mine for about five years now and it’s totally fine. I feel like I’m going to have this one for a long time. But the old retainers that I used to use as night guards. Those were not thick plastic they were thin plastic. I was grinding right through them. But think about that plastic what have been your teeth.
It’s better to buy new night guards and new retainers than to buy new teeth. So we just went over that you will grind your teeth away when you’re sleeping without wearing a nightguard but also if you are clenching your jaw as well. Especially it is important to wear a nightguard because you are placing now a protective barrier between your teeth so that your TMJ doesn’t fully engage it’s super beneficial for your teeth and your jaw.
In addition for clinchers especially the custom night guards are generally made with a flat bottom and the plastic containers that you may have got after braces or after you did teeth straightening with clear aligners. Whatever the case those ones do help protect your teeth. That would have been my teeth I was grinding through but luckily it was the plastic instead. But the thing about these is that they don’t help your jaw as well. If you’re clenching because they don’t have a flat bottom. The flat bottom helps your teeth not flex when they hit against the other teeth. In addition, a lot of the over-the-counter nightguards that you buy in the store can be made from soft material which isn’t great to prevent clenching either it can sometimes make you even clench more and hurt your jaw more.
Again, it’s protecting your teeth so something is better than nothing but please remember that the custom night guards are best to help your jaw due to the flat bottom and the hard outer material use
How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth?
It is very common among people who suffer from stress or nervousness because it’s one of those things that happen subconsciously. Most people don’t even realize they grind their teeth until someone tells them about it because like I said – it happens subconsciously. So how to stop grinding teeth? Here I will share some of the most useful tips that really helped me (and still do).
Try out stress-relieving or relaxation techniques.
Yoga, meditation, and sports activities such as swimming are all great for calming you before bedtime is a good way to hit two birds with one stone and relax both your body and mind. At least try it once – breathing exercises (or simply inhaling/exhaling) can be very effective if you are feeling stressed but don’t worry about looking silly – anyone’s watching 😉 Also, keep in mind that not all yoga poses are relaxing ones!
Use face wash EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I’m a huge fan of face washes because to me, they are the ultimate solution for keeping your skin clean and smooth. If you don’t have a face wash (or sensitive skin) then try out any other product that smells nice and will make your skin soft – I personally love using Herbal Soap when my skin is feeling dry. And definitely use it before going to bed! 🙂
Keep your mouth shut while sleeping.
This one was kind of hard for me to do but after I did it, my teeth clattering reduced dramatically during nighttime. Before this, I used to be a “mouth breather”. I always kept my mouth open while breathing in/out and this made the grinding worse.
Avoid sugar and other food that causes sensitivity.
Just like you can get all stuffy when weather changes, your teeth are affected by different temperature and environment as well so if your teeth clatter at night (or during the day) then try changing your diet to see if this helps. Sugar is a big “no-no” – it’s no secret that not only does it rot out your teeth but it also increases inflammation in your gums which results in stronger tooth clenching!
Chew gum or suck on sweets. This doesn’t work for everyone but I personally prefer chewing gum over sucking on candies because with gum, you have constant reminder in your mouth to keep feeling the crunchiness and it makes your teeth stop clenching.
Try out a dental guard.
If you really want to give this grinding thing a go then get yourself some dental mouthguards – they are cheap and work great (you can find them in pharmacies or online ) but if you only grind at night, I would suggest using face wash or brush with special toothpaste first because this is more effective than guards that simply cover your mouth.
Try an evening routine.
This last one might be tricky for some people who have stressful day jobs but even 5 minutes before hitting the sack can make a huge difference so start by doing whatever relaxes you the most and end with cleaning your teeth with face wash (or something similar). I’m quite sure that when you wake up in the morning, grinding will already be a thing of the past!
Well if stress is causing you to clench or grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce your stress attending stress counseling starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist or getting Botox for your jaw are among some of the options that may be offered.
If a sleeping disorder is causing the clenching or grinding treating it may reduce or eliminate the habit such as sleep apnea, get a sleep test. I do have a great post all about how to reduce jaw pain at home and different treatment options for jaw pain.
Other tips to help you stop teeth grinding include avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine such as Cola, chocolate, and coffee. avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day. Position the tip of your tongue between your teeth this practice trained your jaw muscles to relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm compress against your cheeks in front of your air lopes in conclusion a key challenge with sleep bruxism clenching and grinding while you slumber is that it is much harder for people to be aware that they are grinding their teeth while sleeping.
Also, a sleeping person doesn’t realize their bite strength. So when you’re sleeping, you more tightly clench and grind your teeth than you would during the day and it can actually be up to 250 pounds of force. That’s like a lot and as we said long-term consequences of sleep bruxism can include significant harm to the teeth. Teeth may become painful, eroded and mobile aka loose. Teeth grinding can also increase the risk of problems with the joint that connects your lower jaw to the skull known as the temporomandibular joint TMJ.
TMJ problems can provoke difficulty doing chronic jaw pain popping or clicking noises locking of the jaw and other complications.
And lastly, nighttime teeth grinding can also impact a bed partner the noise from clenching and grinding can be bothersome, making it harder for a person sharing the bed to fall asleep or stay asleep as long as they would like.
So all of these reasons hopefully will make you consider getting or wearing your night guard or your retainer or something to protect your teeth. I can’t stress enough that something is better than nothing. Try the over the counter one try wearing your old retainer if it fits. And if you meet a new night guard and you’re able to then get a new night guard at your dentist. Your teeth and jaw will thank you )