The facts about grinding your teeth and what you can do to stop

by: Sandy Johnson, RDH

Teeth grinding typically occurs during sleep and is often a symptom of stress, result of having missing or crooked teeth, or commonly just the effect of having an abnormal bite. While this habit does not cause severe damage if occasional, persisting episodes can lead to headaches, soreness of the jaw and potentially eventual loss or loosening of teeth.

Most realize they have been grinding because a loved one informs them of the behavior, or because they feel tenderness in their teeth upon waking. If the symptoms are sporadic, the tendency to grind or clench teeth is likely stress-based and not serious. If this is the case, trying one or a combination of these tactics may help stop or at least reduce the frequency of teeth grinding:

•    Consulting a therapist to assist with stress management
•    More frequent exercise or physical therapy to reduce stress and tension levels
•    Taking a muscle relaxer before bedtime
•    Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption
•    Avoid excessive chewing, including gum, pens or anything other than food that trains the jaw to clench
•    Keep hydrated

If grinding becomes an issue on a regular basis, it is best to consult your dentist about options to curb the problem and protect your teeth. Upon examining your teeth, your dentist will be able to tell the extent of the damage and may recommend the wearing of a mouth guard to prevent further grinding.

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