Teeth Grinding: How to Stop It

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Table of Contents

  1. A Tough Habit to Break
  2. What is Teeth Grinding?
  3. Quick Facts
  4. Causes of Teeth Grinding
  5. Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
  6. Diagnosing Bruxism
  7. Treatment Options
  8. Alternative Options
  9. Orthodontic Treatment

Treatment for teeth grinding is usually focused on behavior medication and stress reduction.

In some cases, other treatment may be necessary, including the correction of teeth misalignment, the adjustment of medications, and/or anxiety medication. The use of muscle relaxers or a mouthguard may be advised during treatment to stop further damage to the teeth.

A Tough Habit to Break

Most people grind their teeth subconsciously. Some do it throughout the day, while others do it during sleep, in an unaware state. Some individuals may do both. Teeth grinding during sleep is called sleep bruxism

Teeth grinding is often related to stress and anxiety. Other factors may include lifestyle choices, diet, medications, jaw conditions, and teeth misalignment (malocclusion). 

The effects of teeth grinding can have a very negative impact on oral and overall health. They may include worn tooth enamel, jaw disorders (including TMJ), and sleep disruption.

Some people may not even be aware they are grinding their teeth during the day and at night. Telltale symptoms of teeth grinding include flattened teeth, jaw and face pain, and waking up with soreness.

Even people who know they are grinding their teeth may not know how to stop.

What is Teeth Grinding?

According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, teeth grinding (also called bruxism) is moving the jaw while teeth are held together

Teeth clenching — during which the jaw is just clenched (not moved) while the teeth are held together — is a related habit and sometimes also considered bruxism.

Quick Facts about Teeth Grinding

  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) is moving the jaw while the teeth are held together. Sleep bruxism is grinding the teeth at night.

  • Teeth grinding can be very harmful to the teeth and jaw and can negatively affect overall health. It can result in tooth damage, jaw disorders, sleep disruption, tooth pain, headaches, and tooth sensitivity.

  • Symptoms of teeth grinding include soreness, flattened teeth, loose teeth, jaw pain, and headaches. In cases of sleep bruxism, these symptoms may be more noticeable upon waking up.

  • Many cases of teeth grinding are related to stress. Treatment often includes stress reduction and behavioral therapy.

  • Teeth grinding is common. By some estimates, daytime teeth grinding is experienced by nearly a third of adults, and sleep bruxism is experienced by more than 10 percent of adults. In a 2021 survey, dentists reported the cases of teeth grinding were on the rise.

causes of teeth grinding

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

The causes of teeth grinding are not fully understood in the dental or medical community. Generally, stress is thought to be a leading cause of bruxism. Increased central nervous system activity may also be related.

Other causes may include the following:

  • Consumption of caffeine and alcohol

  • Use of certain antidepressants or other medications

  • Snoring and sleep apnea (in cases of sleep bruxism)

  • Genetics

  • Personality type

  • Teeth misalignment

What are the Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?

Many people who grind their teeth during the day will begin to notice they are doing it when they decide to become more aware of this action.

Sleep bruxism is tougher to detect since it’s done while asleep, but those who experience it may wake up with jaw or mouth soreness or experience repeated sleep disruptions. 

Other symptoms of teeth grinding include the following:

  • Headaches

  • Pain in face and jaw

  • Worn or flattened teeth

  • Tooth pain

  • Loose teeth

  • Clicking or popping in the jaw, or a locked jaw 

  • Pain or ache in ears

  • Damage to the tongue or inside of the cheeks

  • Tooth sensitivity

  • Tenseness in face and jaw

Diagnosing Bruxism

Because of the damage caused by teeth grinding, especially sleep bruxism, many dentists are able to easily identify an issue during a regular exam. They may notice tooth enamel or filling damage, flattening of the teeth, or damage caused by gum or inner cheek friction. 

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth but aren’t sure, set up a dental appointment. Catching the problem early on can help to prevent serious and irreparable damage to your teeth or jaw.

Your dentist or doctor can help to come up with a treatment plan. They may provide you with short-term solutions, like medication or an orthodontic device such as a mouthguard, to protect your teeth from further damage.

how to stop teeth grinding

Treatment Options for Teeth Grinding

Treatment for teeth grinding can be complex, especially because the causes of bruxism aren’t fully understood. 

Most in the medical and dental community associate teeth grinding with stress and anxiety, so lifestyle changes and stress reduction are usually the key elements of treatment. 

This may include the following:

Professionals will also try to identify other possible factors that could be causing teeth grinding in order to address them. For example, some medications (including some antidepressants) are thought to cause bruxism. An adjustment to these medications may be an important part of treating a teeth grinding habit.

In addition to stress reduction and therapy, practicing habit awareness may help with daytime teeth grinding. 

One expert recommends setting a timer that goes off hourly during awake hours. When the alarm goes off, check the position of your mouth and jaw and relax it. Put your mouth into a neutral relaxed position, with the tongue sitting softly at the bottom of mouth, lips passively together, and some space between teeth. 

Continuing this hourly practice for about six weeks may help to train your jaw to relax.

Nighttime teeth grinding (sleep bruxism) may be more difficult to treat since it is done in an unaware sleep state. Sleep bruxism is also often more harmful. In a sleep state, an individual doesn’t realize how much force they’re applying. It could be as much as 250 pounds.

For these reasons, an individual suffering with sleep bruxism may be prescribed muscle relaxers or be advised to wear a mouthguard as they work on behavioral patterns and stress reduction. 

Relaxing practices before bed may also help. These may include the following:

  • Jaw stretches

  • Shutting off any electronics at least an hour before sleep

  • Journaling or reading 

  • Breathing or meditation exercises

  • Gentle or restorative yoga

Other Ways to Stop Teeth Grinding

There aren’t any easy answers when it comes to stopping teeth grinding. A comprehensive approach to reducing your stress and increasing habit awareness will likely be required, possibly with the use of medication or a mouth guard to protect your bite in the meantime.

Here are some other tips to stop teeth grinding:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Whether you’re grinding your teeth during the day or at night, getting the best sleep possible will help to boost your overall health and reduce stress. Good sleep hygiene includes keeping a regular sleep schedule, making sure your sleep area is clean and comfortable, and avoiding stimulating activities before bed.

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Taking care of your teeth may help bring awareness to your mouth, which could help with grinding your teeth (especially during the day). A good dental routine includes brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antimicrobial mouthwash.

  • Change your diet. Eliminating caffeine and alcohol could help you in curbing your bruxism. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can improve your mental health and stress levels. Some experts say to avoid spicy foods before bed as well as high-fat and high-protein meals.

Orthodontic Treatment to Stop Teeth Grinding

Some experts believe that teeth misalignment, or malocclusion, may be linked to bruxism. A bad bite may create harmful wear patterns and jaw issues. These may be factors in the connection between teeth misalignment and teeth grinding.

Treating your misalignment may help with your bruxism, and it will also improve your oral health. Misalignments can increase the risk of decay, gum disease, and tooth damage.

While braces used to be the only well-known (and frequently avoided) option for orthodontics, teeth aligners now make treatment much easier and less noticeable. Clear aligners fit over teeth and can be removed to eat and perform daily dental hygiene practices. At-home aligners allow for affordable pricing and a completely virtual doctor-monitored treatment, with results often only taking 4–6 months.

Teeth Grinding Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. Teeth grinding can cause major and irreparable damage to the teeth and jaw. Nighttime grinding, or sleep bruxism, is especially high-risk because an individual can exert extreme force on their jaw and teeth without even knowing it.

It’s possible that the habit of teeth grinding could be temporary, but there’s no way to know if it will go away or when. The risks of long-term bruxism are too serious to ignore without a treatment plan. A person could flatten their teeth or harm their jaw waiting for the habit to go away.

There’s a wide variety of noises that teeth grinding may sound like, including squeaking, popping, gnawing, crunching, chewing, scraping, and a loud “grinding” sound.

Here are some tips to relax your jaw before bed:

  • Practice mindfulness. Bring attention to your breath and sit in stillness, imagining releasing your jaw. Even as other thoughts come into your mind (and they will), focus on your breath.

  • Stretch your jaw. Don’t allow your top and bottom mouth to touch as you subtly close your lips. Without touching the teeth, touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth. Hold this position for as long as it is comfortable.

  • Try gentle self-massage. Softly massaging the jaw area up the temples can help to relieve muscles and relax the jaw.

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.