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Updated on October 3, 2022

How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth

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What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is defined as excessive, involuntarily, and subconscious or unconscious teeth grinding and clenching.

Nocturnal bruxism, or sleep bruxism, occurs when people grind their teeth or clench their jaws a lot while sleeping. Diurnal, or awake, bruxism occurs when someone grinds their teeth or clenches their jaw too much during the day while awake.

Researchers don’t fully understand why bruxism occurs. But nocturnal bruxism may begin as a disturbance in the central nervous system (CNS) while sleeping. Several factors may increase the risk of developing bruxism. 

Risk factors for bruxism include:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Anger or frustration
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea
  • Snoring
  • Missing, uneven, or crooked teeth
  • Abnormal bite
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Excessive caffeine consumption (drinking 6 or more cups of coffee a day)
  • Taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Recreational drug use, such as cocaine or ecstasy use
  • Imbalances in brain neurotransmitters
  • Aggressive, hyperactive, or competitive personality types
  • Genetics
  • Age (more common in young children and people between 25 and 44 years old)
  • Parkinson’s disease and dementia
  • Epilepsy
  • Night terrors
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
  • Allergies
  • Mouth irritation

How to Tell if You Grind Your Teeth

Many people don’t realize they’re grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws, especially while sleeping.

But most people with bruxism experience certain symptoms, such as:

  • Jaw pain or soreness
  • Dull headaches or earaches
  • Pain in the neck or facial muscles 
  • Pain while eating
  • Jaw tension or tiredness
  • Damaged, worn, or fractured teeth
  • Loose or painful teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Teeth with smooth, flat surfaces 
  • Cheek damage from chewing it
  • Tongue indentation
  • Jaw locking or dislocation
  • Sleep disruptions

12 Ways to Stop Grinding Your Teeth 

There are several things you can do to help reduce or stop bruxism. Common treatment options for bruxism include:

1. Night guards or mouth guards

A night guard or mouth guard can help protect your teeth, jaw, tongue, gums, and cheeks from teeth grinding. They help cushion the force generated by teeth grinding or clenching. You use a night guard while sleeping and a mouth guard during the day.

Over-the-counter (OTC) night guards and mouth guards are usually plastic. Boil-and-bite OTC mouth guards are shaped by placing them in boiling water, biting down on them, and then running them under cool water.

A dentist can also make you a custom night guard or bite guard using a mold of your teeth.

Custom-fit guards tend to be more effective and better fit the shape and size of your jaw. 

2. Restorative or corrective dental treatments

Fixing crooked or misaligned teeth, or reshaping their chewing surfaces, can help reduce bruxism damage. If you have uneven or missing teeth, placing crowns on them or getting dental implants can also help limit teeth grinding.

3. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, in particular cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), helps manage depression and emotional issues like stress and anxiety. Psychotherapy may also help people become more aware of when they’re grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws.

4. Relaxation techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, guided visualization, yoga, or Tai Chi can help manage stress, anxiety, and depression. 

5. Medications

In severe cases where other treatments aren’t effective, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat bruxism, such as:

  • Anti-anxiety agents or anti-depressants
  • Tranquilizers or sedatives
  • Muscle relaxants

Most people only take medications to treat bruxism for a short time.

6. Exercise

Being physically active is an excellent way to reduce stress levels. Some of the most popular stress-relieving activities include walking or jogging, biking, swimming, or dancing.

7. Physical therapy or behavioral therapy

Some physical therapists teach jaw muscle and facial exercises to reduce bruxism and its symptoms. Behavioral therapy can help you learn how to rest your teeth, tongue, and lips properly to reduce jaw discomfort.

8. Botox injections

Botulinum toxin A, or Botox, is a neurotoxin made by bacteria. Botox toxins block muscle contractions, which might improve bruxism if injected into the jaw muscles. 

9. Biofeedback

Biofeedback can identify when there is too much activity in your jaw by using an electromyography (EMG) monitor. This tool helps you notice when you’re grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. It also encourages you to consciously relax your jaw muscles. 

10. Treating disorders or medical conditions related to bruxism

Treating conditions such as GERD, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and sleep disorders like sleep apnea may help treat bruxism.

11. Changing medications

If your bruxism is related to taking a specific medication, a doctor may prescribe an alternative medication. Or, they might advise you on how to stop taking the medication.

12. Lifestyle changes

People who smoke and drink are twice as likely to develop bruxism.1 Avoiding alcohol and/or quitting smoking may help reduce bruxism. 

Limiting your caffeine intake can also relieve bruxism. Common sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. You can also help reduce bruxism by not chewing gum or non-food items like pens and pencils. 

Don’t use illegal stimulant drugs like ecstasy and cocaine. These increase teeth clenching, are bad for your overall health, and can lead to addiction. Also, try to avoid sleeping on your stomach. This sleep position can worsen teeth grinding and clenching.

When to See a Dentist for Bruxism  

Talk to your dentist if you have: 

  • Jaw and neck pain
  • Unexplained headaches or facial pain
  • Tooth damage or sensitivity
  • Other symptoms associated with bruxism listed above

Talk to a dentist if you notice your child is grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw regularly. 

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house resident dentists, “the primary goals of treating bruxism are to alleviate pain, prevent tooth damage, and improve sleep. A sleep study is indicated to determine if there are underlying airway issues.” 

Complications of Long-Term Teeth Grinding

If bruxism occurs long-term, you may experience several complications. Oral health complications and other adverse health effects associated with chronic bruxism include:

  • Tooth damage and worn down enamel
  • Tooth pain and hypersensitivity
  • TMJ disorders
  • Loose teeth or tooth loss 
  • Gum recession
  • Enlargement of the jaw muscles
  • Damage to jaw and facial muscles
  • Damage to crowns, fillings, and dental implants
  • Changes in the way the face looks
  • Chronic headaches, neck pain, or facial pain
  • Reduced sleep quality 

Summary

Bruxism refers to excessive, subconscious, or unconscious teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

The outlook for most people with bruxism is good. Many children outgrow the habit by the time they’re adolescents. Adults that wear night guards or bite guards regularly, or follow other treatment plans like managing stress and anxiety, also tend to reduce teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

Treating or managing bruxism can also help reduce the risk or severity of complications, like jaw or teeth damage and disorders. 

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on October 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Cleveland Clinic. “Bruxism (Teeth grinding).
  2. American Sleep Association. “Bruxism.
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Bruxism.
  4. Mayo Clinic. “Bruxism.
  5. MouthHealthy. “Teeth grinding.
  6. National Library of Medicine. “Bruxism management.
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