How to Stop Clenching Your Teeth: Tips & Effects

How to Stop Clenching Your Teeth: Tips & Effects
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How to Stop Clenching Your Teeth: Tips & EffectsClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. How to Stop Clenching
  2. Other Ways to Stop Clenching
  3. Why Is Teeth Clenching Bad
  4. Symptoms of Bruxism
  5. Maintain Good Health
  6. References

To avoid long-term damage to your teeth and overall health, you should begin to explore what is causing the grinding and what you can do to protect your teeth. Using nightguards, making dietary changes, and correcting misalignment issues are the best ways to stop clenching your teeth. Grinding can also be related to stress and finding ways to reduce your stress can also be beneficial.

Tips to Stop Clenching Your Teeth

How to Stop Clenching Your Teeth

One of the most recommended ways to moderate clenching your teeth, especially at night, is to wear a bite guard.

Your dentist may refer to this as a night guard because you will wear it specifically at night to reduce clenching or grinding. However, if you have a high-stress job, or experience symptoms like headaches and jaw pain during the day, your dentist may ask you to wear the bite guard more often or during daylight hours.

A bite guard is similar to a clear plastic retainer or clear aligner that fits over your teeth and prevents them from coming in direct contact with each other. It is like a cushion to help your bite fit together better, and it cushions your teeth and prevents harder surfaces from crushing, grinding, or straining the enamel and gums.

You may be able to find a good mouthguard at your local drugstore, as many options are sold over the counter. If you suffer from serious or regular bruxism, whether during the day or in your sleep, your dentist may recommend a customized mouthguard.

Your dentist may also recommend other options.

Use Ice Packs or Warm Compresses

Reducing muscular stress in your face can reduce how much you clench your jaw, especially at night. Some companies make special ice packs that can wrap around your face and ease pain and stress from clenching your teeth and jaw.

You may also use a warm compress on your face at night, just before you go to bed, to reduce muscular stress.

Make Dietary Changes

Caffeine and alcohol are two of the most common triggers for clenching your teeth. These chemicals cause intense changes to your central nervous system. These can increase your overall stress levels, which in turn can make your clench your teeth more.

Talk to your dentist about moderate levels of caffeine consumption or talk to your doctor about quitting these substances altogether.

Correct Misaligned Teeth

Many people have some misalignment in their teeth, even if they had braces or aligners as children. It is very common for teeth to move throughout your life, and many people get short-term retainers or aligners from their dentists to make small adjustments to their smiles.

Even if you are happy with your smile overall, some misalignment in your teeth or jaw can lead to bruxism. Talk to your dentist about this option to see if it might help.

Other Ways to Stop Clenching Your Teeth

One of the best ways to stop clenching your teeth outside of oral health improvements is to reduce your stress. This can lessen how often you grind your teeth both when you are awake and when you are asleep. Stress reduction techniques may be especially important for those who suffer from headaches, jaw pain, neck problems, and tooth damage due to bruxism.

Deep breathing techniques, relaxation and meditation, yoga or regular stretching, and regular exercise and improved diet are all common recommendations for reducing your overall stress. Mindfulness, meditation, and breathing are all immediate ways to lower your stress levels. Regular, moderate exercise and healthier dietary changes are long-term approaches to managing systemic stress.

If your stress is associated with poor mental health, your dentist may refer you to your general practitioner and a psychiatrist for help. Antidepressants can improve your overall mental and emotional health, which reduces stress. This can improve many systemic health problems, including clenching your teeth.

Just because you clench your teeth, it does not mean that you suffer from depression or anxiety. Talk to your doctor first

Clenching your teeth can cause serious muscular pain in your jaw, cause cracks in your teeth, grind down tooth enamel, damage the roots, harm your gums, and even hurt your inner ear or neck.

Why Is Clenching Your Teeth So Bad?

Before you realized you clenched your teeth, you may have laughed at cartoon characters who clench their jaws together so tight that their teeth shatter. Clenching your teeth or jaw can be a serious oral health problem called bruxism.

This condition can occur because of high stress, anger, fear, or grief. You may clench and grind your teeth during the day, as you sit at your desk or watch television. Or, you may clench your teeth or jaw at night, in your sleep.

There are several ripple effects of bruxism, but poor oral health may be how you are diagnosed with the condition first.

Symptoms of Bruxism

Sleep bruxism is one of the most common conditions among children that can lead to oral health problems, with as many as 50 percent of children and 15 percent of adolescents and teenagers experiencing this problem.

Sleep bruxism reduces as you get older, with about 8 percent of middle-aged adults experiencing the issue. However, as you get older, more types of stress can impact your health and lead to daytime teeth clenching and grinding.

Symptoms of sleep bruxism include the following:

  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue from poor sleep
  • Jaw dysfunction
  • Damage to the teeth
  • Sensitive teeth or gums
  • Loose teeth

Symptoms of daytime teeth clenching are similar, including increased pain or headaches; muscle tension and pain in the head, neck, and shoulders; and damage to the teeth.

Maintain Good Health by Stopping Teeth Clenching

If you clench your teeth or jaw, there may be several causes that can cascade into other problems that contribute to bruxism. For example, if you have misaligned teeth, you may cause stress to your facial muscles, which turns into pain. This then causes emotional stress, which makes you clench your jaw more.

Consult your dentist for help with this problem first, as they can determine how much damage has occurred to your teeth and oral health and what the best process might be. You may be able to use short-term clear aligners to improve your dental alignment, for example, and then use a night guard to reduce overall jaw clenching while you sleep.

Cultivating your long-term health with stress reduction techniques will benefit your mental and physical well-being. This also improves your oral health.

References

Teeth Grinding. (August 2020). Sleep Foundation. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.

How to Ease Symptoms of Teeth Clenching. (April 2021). Colgate. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.

Clenching Teeth at Night. (April 2021). Colgate. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.

Treatment: Teeth Grinding (Bruxism). (May 2020). National Health Service (NHS.uk). Date fetched: April 28, 2021.

Tooth Clenching or Grinding. (October 2015). American Academy of Oral Medicine. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.

Bruxism. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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