Picture of a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding.Bruxism refers to any type of forceful contact between the teeth.  This can be a loud and grating contact or a silent and clenching contact.  Either form can cause serious damage to the teeth.  Many aren’t aware that they have the condition because they grind their teeth only in their sleep. However, bruxism can occur during waking hours as well.  

Adults and children both can suffer from the condition.  Alcohol, drugs, and certain sleep disorders can exacerbate the condition, making it worse.  Children usually develop bruxism as a result of a cold or infection.  Often pain from teething or earaches will induce bruxism in toddlers and children.

Why do I grind my teeth?

The cause of bruxism is still unknown.  Researchers believe that some humans are programmed from birth to grind their teeth.  It is known that primates and humans grind their teeth.  How often a person grinds their teeth depends on a number of factors.  It is believed that increased stress and anxiety can greatly increase how often and how severely you grind your teeth.   Having an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth can also contribute to teeth grinding. 

Why is bruxism bad?

Occasional bruxism usually does not result in damage to the teeth or jaw. However, chronic teeth grinding can cause serious dental issues.  In some cases, grinding can result in tooth fracture, loosening of teeth, or the loss of a tooth or teeth.  Grinding over years without treatment can wear the teeth down to stumps, which will require bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, or possibly even dentures to repair.  

Not only is bruxism bad for your teeth, it is also damaging to the jaw.  Grinding can result in hearing loss, change the appearance of your face, and TMJ.  

What can I do to stop grinding my teeth?

Being fitted for a mouth guard/night guard will help protect your teeth from the effects of grinding while you sleep. However, in order to cease grinding completely it’s important to treat the triggers for why you grind your teeth.

If stress is causing your bruxism, ask your doctor or dentist about stress reduction techniques and options. Exercise, stress counseling, or prescription muscle relaxers may help reduce how often or severely you grind your teeth.

Other tips to help reduce bruxism include:
  • Cut back or eliminate foods that contain caffeine from your diet.  This includes coffee, soda, tea, and chocolate.
  • Avoid alcohol.  Alcohol tends to increase the severity and frequency of bruxism.
  • Don’t chew on anything that is not food.  This includes gum, pencils, or pens.  Constantly chewing conditions your jaw muscles to stay clenched and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
  • Pay attention to your mouth.  If you notice that you grind or clench your teeth during the day, train yourself to relax. Position the tip of your tongue between your front teeth to make it harder to clench or grind your teeth.
  • Relax your jaw before bed.  Using a warm washcloth on the face at night will help relax the jaw prior to sleep. Position it on your cheeck in front of your earlobe to get maximum results.