Do you grind your teeth? Here are 5 ways to stop according to a leading dentist
02nd Nov 2019
Do you wake up with pain in your jaw, or sensitive teeth? You could be grinding them in your sleep, says Dr Jennifer Collins, lead general dentist at Northumberland Dental Care in south Dublin. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this damaging habit, which can be caused by anything from the alignment of your teeth, to stress or anxiety.
Teeth grinding is a common occurrence in both men and women, and can happen any time of the day, but is mainly linked to sleep. Known as bruxism, it can be frequent and severe enough to cause long-lasting problems such as jaw disorders and damaged teeth.
Many of us aren’t aware we grind our teeth unless it’s pointed out to us by a sleeping partner, or a dentist. Common symptoms include worn or sensitive teeth, soreness around the jaw in the morning, headaches, and making a grinding sound while sleeping.
If you grind your teeth you’re in good company, model and TV presenter Chrissy Teigen has previously admitted to being a ‘grinder’. Photo: Getty Images
What causes teeth grinding?
The cause of teeth grinding is not always clear, says Dr Collins, but it can be linked to both physical and psychological factors such as abnormal alignment of teeth, stress, anxiety or sleep problems.
“Some cases of bruxism are due to a slight misalignment between the top and bottom jaw, which affects how the teeth meet,” says the dentist.
“Stress and anxiety can also be an underlying factor, and often teeth grinding only occurs during times of stress such as job interviews, exams or moving house. Some people clench teeth while concentrating, or during physical exercise. It can also be triggered by alcohol intake or from taking certain psychotic medications and anti-depressants.”
TV presenter and model Chrissy Teigen has spoken of how she grinds her teeth at night. While filming TV travel series The Getaway, Chrissy’s temporary restorations ended up in her plate of food. “I had chipped my front tooth so I had temporaries in,” she explained in an interview at the time. “I’m a grinder. I grind like crazy at night time. I had temporary teeth in that I actually ground off on the flight to Thailand.”
Related: 10 ways to prevent sensitive teeth
Dr Jennifer Collins is the lead general dentist at Northumberland Dental Care in south Dublin. Photo: Northumberland Dental Care
5 ways to stop grinding your teeth
“Whether teeth grinding is due to a sleep disorder, lifestyle factors or stress and anxiety, it is really important to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual. If teeth grinding is stress-related, for example, I often recommend working with the patient’s GP to explore ways of managing that stress,” says Dr Collins.
1. Regular dental visits
As you may not be aware of your teeth grinding, it is important to visit your dentist for regular check-ups. Your dentist will recognise signs of teeth grinding such as worn teeth and fillings, or damaged dental crowns and bridges.
2. Use of a mouthguard
If you grind your teeth, your dentist may recommend a custom-made mouthguard. This is a specially fitted plastic guard that fits over your top or bottom teeth. A mouthguard is one of the most successful and cost-effective means to stop teeth grinding. It is typically worn at night but can also be used during the day if needed.
3. Mouth exercises
By learning to relax your jaw muscles, you can help to reduce the tension that often leads to an aching jaw or headache. Your dentist can suggest gentle, muscle relaxing exercises to ease tension and discomfort in the mouth and jaw area which can help stop grinding.
4. Orthodontic braces
The way your jaw and teeth fit together is a common reason for grinding and clenching. Even at rest or asleep, your jaw sitting irregularly can cramp the muscles and cause unnecessary wear and tear on your teeth. If jaw misalignment is an issue, your dentist might suggest orthodontic braces as a solution to teeth grinding.
5. Relaxation techniques
To stop stress-related grinding, both children and adults can benefit from regular physical exercise, a balanced diet, and relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga. Relaxation techniques, especially before bedtime, can drastically reduce teeth grinding at night.
Dr Jennifer Collins is lead general dentist at Northumberland Dental Care in Dublin 4, part of the Dental Care Ireland group. For further tips and advice on looking after your oral health, visit northumberlanddentalcare.ie.