The Many Ways to Stop Grinding Teeth

Bruxism Guide

The Many Ways to Stop Grinding Teeth

If you grind your teeth persistently, you are suffering from chronic bruxism.  This can be a bad thing for a lot of reasons.  Bruxism can cause headaches, jaw or facial pain, mandibular discomfort, and even tooth damage.  In fact, the worst cases of bruxism have seen sufferers grind their teeth down to literal nubs.

Naturally, you want to stop it before it gets that bad.  In order to stop bruxism though, you have to try and pinpoint what is causing yours.  The instigators of bruxism are many and varied, and unfortunately most cases usually have more than one cause behind them.

While some treatments (like mouth guards) technically work in all cases no matter the cause of the teeth grinding, they still do not really stop you from indulging in the behavior: they only prevent it from damaging the teeth by shielding them.  The better solution would still be to stop the behavior altogether, which requires knowing its source.

What Might Be Causing Your Bruxism?

Pinpointing the causes of bruxism is not easy given how many things can set it off.  There are some culprits that tend to appear more often than others, though.  Stress is one of them.

Numbers vary, but studies suggest that as many as 70% of all teeth grinders do it largely because of stress.  There are other factors that may aggravate it, of course: bad habits like chewing on the ends of one’s pens, an uncorrected underbite or overbite, or even dehydration.  But stress seems to be a leading factor even compared to the rest.

Stress relief is therefore one of the most important things to do when trying to stop bruxism.  Anxiety medications, counseling, and adequate relaxation are all vital to treatment.  Avoidance of stimulants that tend to ratchet up stress levels—caffeine, for instance—is part of that.

In fact, you should keep consumption of certain drugs down to a minimum if you want to reduce your teeth grinding.  Aside from caffeine, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are known to increase the likelihood of bruxism.  These are often anti-depression prescriptions though, so you may not have much choice as to whether or not to take them.  You may see your doctor first to ask if the medication may be changed, but do not make that decision arbitrarily yourself.

Alcohol is also linked to bruxism, so keep its consumption to a minimum.  Avoid drinking too much of it, especially at night.  Alcohol also promotes fitful sleeping anyway, so it really would be wise not to take a lot of it before you sleep.

In fact, a lot of questionable drugs tend to encourage teeth grinding.  People who take methamphetamines, for example, are more likely to have bruxism than ones who do not.  The same can be said for people who take Ecstasy.  Regarding these though, there are even more urgent reasons for avoiding their use than to avoid bruxism.  Once you get addicted to such substances, the loss of your teeth may even be the least of your worries.

Ways to Stop Bruxism

As mentioned earlier, stress relief is a vital step in treating chronic bruxism.  Stress can be felt not just in the mind, though: some teeth grinders actually suffer from muscular stress—or more specifically, persistent tension in the muscles of the face and jaw.

Reducing this muscular tension may actually do a lot to counter bruxism.  Some doctors advocate facial exercises to loosen up these tense muscles, while others suggest massages.  Doing both would not hurt either.  Another technique for keeping your jaw muscles loose is to practice keeping your teeth apart most of the time, as opposed to having them clenched.  If you tend to forget, you can try keeping your tongue in between your teeth, as that will prevent you from biting down.

Those who tend to grind their teeth in their sleep can also begin holding warm compresses to their cheeks before they go to bed.  A few minutes of a warm compress being held on the skin above the temporomandibular joint (this is pretty much the part of your cheek in front of your earlobe) can do a lot to ease the tension in that area.

The other causes mentioned earlier can give you a hint to the other techniques you can try.  If you have a habit of chewing on things, try to curb that.  Bruxism can be learned behavior, so you need to stop encouraging it by engaging in comparable activities like chewing gum or even pens.

People who suffer from overbites and underbites should also see their dentists for correction.  An overbite or underbite can actually lead to persistent migraines aside from bruxism.  Besides, seeing a dentist is important if you suffer from bruxism.  This is because you want them to check whether or not you have already caused serious damage to your teeth, and if so, how to fix it.  A lot of teeth grinders worsen existing weaknesses in their teeth because of their habit, and it can lead to tooth decay or even multiple tooth loss.

Dehydration was also mentioned earlier as a common feature in bruxism cases.  People are still not entirely certain how it causes or relates to teeth grinding, but it’s better safe than sorry.  Therefore, make sure that you are always well-hydrated, to reduce the chances of teeth grinding unconsciously.

The Most Common “Treatment”: The Mouth Guard

The mouth guard is still the most used of all the supposed treatments for bruxism, despite the caveat mentioned above.  Again, it does not really stop bruxism, so you still need to figure that out for yourself, but it does keep your teeth relatively safe.

Mouth guards come in different shapes and sizes—which tells you that custom ones are the best from a comfort perspective.  You can get a factory-issue one from your local pharmacy, but you need a dentist for the custom ones.  These cost more because they fit better.

Some guards are meant for day use while others are meant specifically for use while sleeping.  Others can do duty for either occasion.  Just keep in mind that if you choose this “treatment”, you are technically just opting for a means of controlling the condition instead of cancelling it.  You still need to probe deep to find out what is prompting the grinding and to end it.

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