Do you grind your teeth at night? Nearly 10% of all American adults and 15% of children do. That is according to estimates from the American Sleep Association. The problem with nighttime teeth grinding is the damage it does to our teeth. Research done at the Tufts University School of Medicine has shown that the clenching of teeth is like putting about 300 pounds of pressure on the teeth and jaw. Dental stress and tooth grinding are responsible for nearly 80% of tension headaches. Preventing this or stopping it is an important oral care step you can take to protect your teeth.
- Work on your stress level. The number one cause of tooth grinding is stress. You may not think of stress reduction when you think about oral care but it is one way to prevent tooth grinding. Examine what is causing your stress level to be high. If you are stressed out because of work or a relationship, you might want to revisit those things in your life. You can find a new job and work on your relationship. If you do not make time to do fun and even silly things, you should start. We all need to laugh and it is a wonderful way to reduce stress. Also, practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed at the same time every night. Getting more sleep is another way to reduce stress. Also, eat a healthier diet. When we eat balanced meals, our bodies deal better with stress than when we do not.
- Reduce the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume. Limit the amount of coffee, sodas with caffeine, energy drinks and even chocolate. If you want to enjoy those, do it earlier in the day. Consuming too much can keep you awake at night and makes it harder for your mind and muscles to relax. Many people think that having a glass or two of wine before bed will help them sleep but the opposite is often true. It may make you sleepy initially but the sleep you get will not be as restful and you are more likely to grind your teeth. Nighttime grinding is often worse when your sleep is shallow as it is when you drink alcohol.
- Save your chewing for food. A lot of people chew on pens or other items when they are feeling stressed out. One good oral care tip is to stop doing that. There is even an anemia called pica where people crave eating non-food items. If you find yourself wanting to chew on ice or plastic, you may want to talk to your doctor. The habit of chewing on non-food items is very bad for our teeth and can contribute to bruxism (the clinical term for tooth grinding).
- Practice not grinding your teeth during the day. If you clench your jaw during the day, you have a better chance of grinding your teeth during the night. Pay attention to your stress level during the day and take note if you clench your teeth during the day. Make stopping this part of your oral care routine. Some people find success by placing their tongue between their teeth as a way to practice relaxing.
- Add magnesium and calcium supplements. These minerals are very important for your health. Specifically, they are needed for your nervous system health and to preserve good muscle function. Clenching your teeth at night may be a sign that you are not getting enough of these minerals in your diet. Do not expect this to work over night. It may take several weeks to just over a month to see the impact this has on your health so be patient with it.
- Practicing relaxation methods before bed. Massage the muscles in your shoulders and neck. Take a hot shower to relax and soothe those muscles. Try meditation techniques to reduce tension.
Some people get a bite guard for teeth grinding. If you find you cannot stop doing this while you sleep, it might be a good option. Before you rush out and buy night mouth guards, try these tips. You may find relaxing before you go to sleep is enough to stop grinding your teeth.