How to stop clenching?

5 Ways to Stop Grinding Your Teeth (That Don’t Involve a Mouth Guard)

One night last year, after a long day at a work conference, I got back to my hotel room to eat dinner and discovered, to my horror, that I couldn’t open my mouth. It just… wouldn’t open. Fortunately, this bizarre episode didn’t last long—the evening ended with me managing to painfully pry my jaw open about half an inch, which was enough to force-feed myself a plate of room-service pasta… glamorous #BusinessTripLife, right?

To my surprise, I later learned that the symptoms were caused by grinding my teeth in my sleep—something I didn’t even know I had been doing. Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is startlingly common: Some metrics estimate that this repetitive, involuntary movement, a clenching of the jaw muscles, can affect up to 16 percent of the population. Some people grind their teeth during the day, but many do so in their sleep—often without even realizing it’s happening.

While there are different medical explanations as to why bruxism happens, and each case is different, most experts trace the majority of their clients’ cases back to either a bite imbalance or stress. “Grinding one’s teeth is a way your body is coping with stress,” says Kruti Patel, D.M.D. “It releases an endorphin in your brain, which makes your brain feel good, and you continue to grind.”

How bad is grinding your teeth, really?

Since teeth grinding is so common, it’s easy to assume that it’s nothing more than a minor annoyance. Sure, there are those wild cases of people forced into dentures at 50, you might tell yourself, but for most people, it doesn’t really matter, right? Well, kind of. The extreme cases are rare, but according to the experts, grinding on a regular basis is definitely not ideal.

Extreme cases are called “extreme” for a reason—they don’t happen to everyone. If you only grind your teeth occasionally, you may never develop any dental issues from it. Even regular grinders aren’t necessarily doomed to early dentures, but consistent grinding over time can lead to pretty intense dental wear and tear. You could experience tooth cracking, bone loss around the roots of your teeth, and sometimes even loss of the teeth themselves. “Excessive force on your teeth can cause cracks in your teeth,” Patel says. “Depending on the crack, you may need anywhere from a filling to an extraction.”

You may also experience enamel loss. “Once enamel is lost, it is lost forever,” says Robert C. Rawdin, D.D.S., co-owner of Gallery 57 Dental in Manhattan. “It can only be restored through the restoration of the teeth.” Restoration involves the use of methods like bonding, porcelain crowns, or veneers.

Tooth grinding can also lead to pain in the joints around your jaw, as well as migraines caused by the exertion of your jaw muscles.

When it comes to treatment, lots of dentists recommend custom-made night guards to wear when you sleep, which can buffer your teeth from the damage of the grinding. You can also buy night guards off the rack at a store, but they haven’t been fitted to your individual bite, so you might not see the same results. That said, there are some dentists who feel that the results of night guards aren’t worth the trouble, and if your bruxism is triggered by a bite problem rather than stress, they might opt to focus on dental intervention that can correct an unbalanced bite.

“The jaw muscles want to be in a comfortable orientation,” says Benjamin Lawlor, D.D.S., of Maine Cosmetic Dentistry. “When this doesn’t happen, the muscles will uneasily shift back and forth trying to find that comfortable position.” As you can imagine, this leads to grinding and pain—so if your dentist can get to the root of the problem by helping you adjust your bite, it’s probably worthwhile.

There are other potential solutions—if you’ve got an open mind.

When it comes to bruxism that’s triggered by stress, there are all kinds of wacky remedies that have been tried to varying success. Some of these options are backed by solid research, while others are just beginning to be explored, although there’s reason to believe they can work. Here are a handful of promising solutions for teeth grinding—and info about the current research surrounding each.

1. Botox

Yep, really! While Botox won’t “cure” grinding, it can drastically reduce the symptoms for some patients, and each treatment lasts for several months. It’s not a fit for everyone, and it’s a bit divisive among experts, but some bruxism sufferers have described Botox as life-changing. The solution can paralyze or slow the activity of some of the muscles around your jaw—which can lead to a whole lot less pain from clenching or grinding.

“For nocturnal teeth grinding, I inject a small amount of Botox into the masseter muscle—the big round muscle under the ears at the angle of the jaw you can feel when you bite down with your mouth closed,” explains Charles Crutchfield, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology and medical director at Crutchfield Dermatology. “It does not work for everyone,” he says. “But in my experience, it gives significant relief to about three-quarters of those who suffer from teeth grinding during sleep and wake up with sore jaws and headaches.”

Plenty of professionals are recommending Botox these days, but others aren’t convinced. One dentist even laughed when I asked him if he’d ever recommend the treatment. Early research isn’t very substantial on either side of the debate just yet, but it’s worth noting that two small studies pointed to Botox as a positive option, with one noting that Botox “effectively and safely improved sleep bruxism.”

On the other hand, another small study found that Botox led to bone density loss in rabbits. (Reminder: You are not a rabbit, and non-human studies should be taken with a small bucket of salt.) All in all, just be sure to consult with a dentist or medical professional before you try it.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of short-term talk therapy that explores the thoughts behind your behaviors and feelings. CBT helps you build healthier habits and thought associations to empower you to ditch negative patterns in your life.

Initial research has hinted(opens in new window) that CBT could help with treating bruxism, but more data is needed to find a conclusive and clear connection. “CBT may help treat underlying anxiety that causes bruxism, but a night guard definitely helps protect against the consequences,” says psychiatrist Sandip Buch, M.D. CBT, founder of Skypiatrist.

This form of therapy can be incredibly effective when it comes to managing stress and breaking unwanted habits, so as you can imagine, it has the potential to be a good fit for stress-fueled bruxism.

3. Hypnosis

According to the Bruxism Association, research has indicated that hypnosis has had a positive impact on some bruxism suffers for more than two years after treatment. Like other treatments, hypnosis might not work for everyone, but if you’re down to “get sleepy… very sleepy,” it could be worth a shot. You can undergo hypnosis in person—or, if you’re looking for something more low-key, you can download or buy hypnosis recordings created especially for bruxism.

4. Tapping

Tapping, also known as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is a therapeutic method of “psychological acupressure” that takes its cue from certain key facets of acupuncture. Instead of acupuncture needles, the treatment involves tapping with your fingers on designated pressure points on your body. Many bruxism sufferers have said it works wonders, but there’s not much research on the topic. Research has found, however, that EFT is beneficial in treating PTSD, so there’s certainly a possibility that it could help with stress-related habits as well.

5. General De-Stressing

Because teeth grinding can be driven by stress, both physicians and more holistic-leaning practitioners have suggested relaxing at night. “Find ways to relax and de-stress before bed, such as getting a massage, using a warm compress, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine,” says certified personal trainer Caleb Backe of Maple Holistics. Yoga, stretching, meditation, or any kind of self-care routine you’d usually use to de-stress is a good bet.

Claire Hannum is an NYC-based writer, editor, and traveler.

For more great fitness tips, healthy recipes, and inspiration, check out our friends at Greatist.

Overview


Teeth grinding (bruxism)

What causes teeth grinding?

The cause of teeth grinding is not always clear, but it’s usually linked to other factors, such as stress, anxiety or sleep problems.

Stress and anxiety

Teeth grinding is most often caused by stress or anxiety and many people are not aware they do it. It often happens during sleep.

Medicines

Teeth grinding can sometimes be a side effect of taking certain types of medicine.

In particular, teeth grinding is sometimes linked to a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

Examples of SSRIs include paroxetine, fluoxetine and sertraline.

Sleep disorders

If you snore or have a sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), you’re more likely to grind your teeth while you sleep. OSA interrupts your breathing while you sleep.

You’re also more likely to grind your teeth if you:

  • talk or mumble while asleep
  • behave violently while asleep, such as kicking out or punching
  • have sleep paralysis, a temporary inability to move or speak while waking up or falling asleep
  • experience hallucinations, where you see or hear things that are not real, while semi-conscious

Lifestyle

Other factors that can make you more likely to grind your teeth or make it worse include:

  • drinking alcohol
  • smoking
  • using recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine
  • having lots of caffeinated drinks, such as tea or coffee (6 or more cups a day)

Are You Involuntarily Clenching Your Teeth?

What is Bruxism?

Clenching, grinding, gnashing or grating of teeth in medical terms is known as Bruxism. People may clench or grind their teeth unknowingly and it may happen both during day and night. Bruxism may be either silent clenching or even loud forceful grating. This is most often seen in adults but some children may also acquire this condition. Grinding or clenching of teeth, especially at night, is sleep related and is called Nocturnal Bruxism. Bruxism during the day is associated more with clenching of teeth and jaws rather than grinding and is more likely due to anxiety, stress or even subconsciously while concentrating or during heavy exercising. Occasional teeth grinding usually does no harm. However regular and persistent teeth grinding may cause pain and discomfort to the jaws, teeth may get damaged and other oral health complications may arise.

Causes of Bruxism:

Why does Bruxism occur? Why do people grind their teeth?While its exact cause is unknown, most experts believe that bruxism is a response to increased anxiety or psychological stress.

STRESS and ANXIETY

Most common cause of Bruxism is thought to be related to increased psychological stress and anxiety that affects them subconsciously while asleep.

MALALIGNED TEETH

Some experts feel that Bruxism is a mere habit and is a result of teeth not aligned properly.

SLEEP DISORDER

There is also a strong association between bruxism and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) a sleep disorder in which your breathing is interrupted during your sleep.

MEDICATIONS

In rare cases, Bruxism may be a side effect of certain antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs which are used to treat depression and anxiety.

LIFESTYLE

Regular or excessive intake of alcohol, smoking and using recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine, increase your risk of bruxism.

DISEASE

Bruxism also may be a symptom of certain rare diseases affecting the nerves and muscles in the face.

Symptoms

Bruxism can cause various symptoms

  • Abnormal tooth wear (resulting in short teeth) causing the outer layers of enamel to wear away, exposing dentin. This can result in tooth sensitivity.
  • Damaged teeth, broken dental fillings
  • Inflamed gums
  • Pain and stiffness in the jaw making it uncomfortable or even painful to open the mouth wide especially in the morning
  • Rhythmic contractions of the jaw muscles
  • Swelling (occasionally) on the side of your lower jaw caused by clenching. Chronic clenching exercises the jaw muscles, like lifting weights, this makes the muscles grow larger. Once you stop clenching, the muscles will shrink and the swelling will go away.
  • Dull headache when you wake up in the morning
  • Unexplained pain in the face (facial myalgia)
  • Earache
  • Sleep disruption (both to you and your partner)

Diagnosis:

If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your dentist to determine if you are a bruxer and how best to treat it. Doctors refer to teeth grinding that is caused by an underlying condition as “Primary bruxism” and that associated with your lifestyle, medication or medical condition as “Secondary bruxism”.

Bruxism in Children

Bruxism in children is often seen when their permanent teeth start erupting and the habit usually stops after the adult teeth are fully formed.

Treatment

Some of the symptoms of bruxism, such as facial pain, dull headache, earache, will often disappear when you stop grinding your teeth. However others, such as tooth damage, can be permanent. Here are some self-care remedies to relieve pain:

  • Yoga, deep breathing, reading, listening to music, etc. are few recommended techniques for stress management.
  • Apply ice or wet heat to sore jaw muscles.
  • Avoid eating hard foods such as nuts, candies, etc.
  • Drink plenty of water daily.
  • Stretching exercises like opening and closing your mouth, help to restore the action of the jaw muscles back to normal.
  • Massaging the neck, shoulder and facial muscles.

Consult your Dentist if:

  • Your teeth are worn, damaged or sensitive.
  • You have pain in your jaw, face or ear.
  • Others complain that you make a grinding sound in your sleep.

The Dentist will suggest appropriate treatment which may include:

  • Mouth Guards and Splints: This will protect your teeth and prevent clenching and grinding during sleep, thus eliminating the destructive behaviour and preventing further damage to the teeth.
  • Reconstructive Dental Treatment: Dental problems like misaligned, cracked, crooked or missing teeth are treated by providing overlays, crowns, etc. These treatments will reshape the chewing surface of your teeth and stop you from grinding.

Consult your Physician:If you grind your teeth and you have high stress levels or anxiety problems, a Physician will identify the underlying problem and prescribe medication if and as required. He may suggest taking a muscle relaxant before you go to bed to help relieve your symptoms. Pain killers like NSAIDS (Non Steroidal anti Inflammatory Drugs) such as Ibuprofen are prescribed in order to relieve pain caused by Bruxism.

Teeth grinding/bruxism

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is the habit of clenching, gnashing or grinding your teeth. Your teeth are not meant to be clenched and in contact all the time. They should only briefly touch each other when you swallow or chew. If they are in contact too often or too forcefully, it can wear down the tooth enamel. This is the outer layer that covers each tooth. Without this to protect the inner parts of your teeth, you may have dental problems. Clenching or grinding your teeth regularly can also lead to pain in the jaw or in the muscles of the face. Bruxism happens during sleep, but some people also suffer from this when awake.

Who has bruxism?
It is thought that about half of the community grinds their teeth from time to time. But it may be serious in only about 1 in 20 cases. About 30% of children grind or clench their teeth. Most children grow out of this and suffer no lasting effects to their adult teeth.

How do I know if I have it?
You may not know that you grind your teeth while you are asleep. A bed partner may be the first person to notice grinding sounds and noises. Other clues may be morning symptoms of a dull headache, jaw muscles that hurt or are tight, trouble opening the mouth wide, long lasting pain in the face, damage to the teeth and broken dental fillings.

Your dentist can help to work out if you have bruxism. You will be asked a series of questions and your overall dental health will be checked. This may include looking for any wear and damage to your teeth, checking the muscles in and around your jaw and the function of the jaw joints, which are just in front of your ears. They may need to look at changes to your teeth and mouth over a number of visits to work out whether the cause is bruxism.

To be sure that you suffer from sleep bruxism, a sleep study may be needed. This will show how much you move your jaw while asleep. A sleep study looking for bruxism by itself is not common, but it may uncover other sleep problems.

What causes it?
There are many reasons for bruxism such as emotional stress (e.g. anger and anxiety), drug use (e.g. stimulants), having to concentrate hard, illness, not having enough water in your body, the wrong diet, sleep problems, teething (in babies), bad tooth alignment and problems with dental work. Some people can also get bruxism as a side effect of antidepressants. If you let your doctor know of this side effect, you may be changed to a different drug.

How is bruxism treated?
There are many treatments available for bruxism, including relaxation and awareness techniques. Counselling may help to relieve stress in your life. Improving the quality of your sleep can be of benefit. This may include reducing the use of stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine, having enough sleep, making sure you have a good bedtime routine and relaxing before bed. Treating sleep apnoea in some people may also help to control sleep bruxism.

There are no medications that will stop sleep bruxism. A grinding mouthguard can be made. This is like a sports mouthguard, but harder. It will help protect the teeth, muscles and jaw joint from the pressure of clenching and grinding. It will not stop bruxism and in some cases can make the actual grinding worse, but it will lessen the damage to your teeth.

Can it get worse?
Many cases of bruxism are mild and cause little harm. If so, the person usually does not know that they are grinding their teeth. But more serious cases may damage the teeth and result in facial pain and poor sleep. Nightly sounds can also wake other people sleeping nearby (e.g. roommates and sleeping partners). If you know that you have this problem, then you should take action to prevent any serious consequences.

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Where can I find out more?

How to Stop Clenching Teeth

About a year ago, I went to the dentist for what I thought was a regular checkup. My dentist took one look at my teeth and asked, “Are you stressed?” Apparently my teeth showed evidence of bruxism. My dentist explained that bruxism, a condition most often caused by stress, involves grinding your teeth, either at night or throughout the day, without realizing it.

Are you waking up with headaches, a sore jaw or neck pain? Then you may be unconsciously grinding or clenching your teeth, as well. Bruxism is a fairly common disorder. Often, it is mild and may not even require treatment. However, if your condition is severe enough, it may cause irreversible damage to your teeth, such as wearing down the enamel, fracturing teeth or loosening previous dental work. So how can you quit clenching teeth and save your smile?

Reduce Stress

As my dentist pointed out, increased anxiety or stress is one of a number of causes of clenching teeth, according to Mayo Clinic. To reduce your bruxism, learn how to manage your stress. If you’re going through a particularly rough patch in your life, don’t rule out professional counseling. For other stress relievers, try exercise or meditation. Even something as simple as a relaxing bath before bed may go a long way in reducing your bruxism.

Wear a Mouth Guard or Splint

Mouth guards and splints are worn at night while sleeping. They won’t eliminate your bruxism, but they will protect your teeth and help redistribute the force of teeth clenching or grinding. They are available over-the-counter or you can have one custom-made by your dentist. Typically, custom-made guards are higher quality and work better than over-the-counter options, but can be much more expensive. Ask your dentist for a professional recommendation.

Correct Misaligned Teeth

If your bruxism appears to be caused by a problem with teeth alignment, correcting your misalignment may help. Your dentist may fit your teeth with orthodontics or braces to correct your bite and alignment. When bruxism has worn down your tooth so much that you have problems chewing, your dentist may recommend a reconstructive treatment such as crowns or overlays.

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Avoid caffeine and other stimulating substances in the evening. Coffee, tea, soda and chocolate should be off limits after dinner. These stimulants affect the quality of your sleep, making you more likely to clench your teeth during sleeping. Similarly, avoid alcohol, which also adversely affects the quality of sleep.

Muscle Relaxant

If your bruxism is particularly severe, your dentist may recommend that you take a muscle relaxant before sleeping, according to The New York Times A muscle relaxant will help keep your jaw from clenching throughout the night. These types of drugs can be habit forming, so they should be used with caution.

Acupuncture

Anecdotal evidence suggests that acupuncture can calm bruxism. Although acupuncture has not been clinically proved to cure bruxism, many people have reported that regular treatments have reduced their bruxism.

Ways to Prevent Grinding Your Teeth

Strategies that’ll stop teeth grinding

Clenching or grinding your teeth occasionally is normal and typically won’t cause damage, but when done regularly, it can harm your teeth and cause other oral health issues. Teeth grinding, technically called , can have different causes, but often it’s triggered by stress, medical conditions, or crooked or missing teeth. Grinding typically occurs during sleep, so it can be hard for people to know whether they have bruxism. Signs include a sore jaw or constant headache, and a partner can sometimes hear the grinding. Your dentist can also look for symptoms, like changes or abnormalities in your teeth as well as jaw tenderness. Severe bruxism can lead to loose or broken teeth, and can wear them down so much that crowns, implants, root canals, bridges, or dentures may be needed. It can also damage your jaw, lead to hearing loss, and change the shape of your face. These strategies will help you stop grinding:

Wear a Night Guard. Your dentist can custom fit you for a night guard, which is an appliance that fits over your top teeth, is made from plastic or acrylic, and is worn while you sleep. Though it won’t stop you from grinding, it protects your teeth.

Exercise.Whether you opt for a major sweat session or just a stroll, working out helps alleviate stress, which is a common cause of bruxism.

Take a Warm Bath Before Bed. Warm water can help relax your jaw muscles right before you turn in. If you don’t like baths, soak a washcloth in warm water, wring it out, and apply it to your jaw. A heating pad can also do the trick, though moist heat is best because it penetrates better.

Relax. Since anxiety is a major force behind grinding, try to unwind and relieve stress just before bedtime. Hitting the hay when you’re calm can reduce grinding.

Learn New Habits. It is possible to grind or clench during the day. So try to be aware of your mouth—keep your lips closed but teeth apart. Teeth should only touch when you’re chewing or swallowing. Whenever you feel your jaw clenching, drop your jaw down, feel the muscles relax, and then try to maintain that position.

Give Yourself a Massage. A rubdown helps the rest of your body relax, and it works the same way for your jaw muscles—gently rub them when you’re feeling tense.

Seek Help. If you suffer from severe anxiety, talk therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist may help alleviate that, which in turn will reduce grinding.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine. Grinding may get worse after drinking alcohol or caffeine. So skip that glass of wine or cup of coffee in the evening.

Don’t Chew Anything Besides Food. Gnawing on pens or pencils or similarly hard items can enable your jaw muscles to get used to clenching, making you more likely to grind your teeth.

Skip Chewy Foods. Keep gum, steak, popcorn, and other chewy foods to a minimum when you’ve been grinding your teeth. This will ease soreness and give your jaw a break.

How to stop clenching and grinding your teeth

Signs and symptoms

Teeth grinding or clenching most commonly happens in our sleep, which can make it tricky to control or even identify. Often, people only realise they’re doing it when their partners complain. It can sound like stones grinding together – not the most soothing sleep soundtrack.

But there are some other clues that could suggest you have a bruxism issue, says MC Dental dentist Dr Jenifer Jiang. Waking up with an aching jaw or a dull headache are telltale signs.

“You can also get pain in the teeth, sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink, earaches, muscular pain in the face, or stiffness and pain in the jaw joint muscles,” Dr Jiang says. “You can have issues with opening up your jaw really wide, or clicking when you’re trying to eat.”

What problems could it cause?

Treating your bruxism is important not only for soothing these aches and pains, but for protecting your teeth from damage. Grinding your teeth together puts a lot of pressure on them, which can wear down their protective enamel, potentially leading to some serious issues.

“Over time, you might have some worn tooth surfaces. You can also get microfractures – tiny cracks in the teeth. Or you might wake up with a chipped tooth from grinding,” Dr Jiang says. If you have restorative dental work like fillings and crowns, grinding can also cause damage to these.

“If you don’t treat it, it sort of has a vicious cycle. The muscles that cause the grinding get stronger, so the grinding gets worse, and the symptoms worsen.”

Along with tooth damage, there is also potential for damage to the temporomandibular joint (the jaw joint, or TMJ), which can be difficult and expensive to treat.

“There’s a little disc in the temporomandibular joint that can go through a lot of wear and tear if you’re grinding away at night,” Dr Jiang explains. “If that happens, it’s a very tricky area to fix. So prevention is key. You don’t want finicky and expensive surgery later down the path.”

How to treat it

To protect your teeth at night, your dentist can fit you with a custom moulded mouthguard called an occlusal splint, which you wear over your teeth while you sleep. This won’t necessarily stop the grinding action itself, but it will prevent further wear and damage to the teeth, and help give your jaw and face muscles a rest.

As these night guards can be costly, some people try using a regular sports mouthguard instead. But Dr Jiang says this isn’t an ideal solution. “A sports mouthguard can help for protecting the teeth, but often the dimensions are not quite right and the material is quite rubbery, so it can actually contribute to moving the jaw around more. It’s better to get a properly fitted night guard from the dentist.”

In some cases, your doctor might prescribe you medication that can relax the jaw muscles, reducing the grinding.

Soothing stress

Relieving stress is another key way to reduce your clenching and grinding. Relaxation techniques like meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises can all be helpful, as can counselling and therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy.

The Sleep Health Foundation also suggests developing good sleep habits to increase your chances of a calming night’s rest – for you and your jaw. This includes creating a soothing wind-down routine before bed, reducing your use of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol (especially at night), and making sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.

If your stress is overwhelming, or you think your teeth grinding might be a result of depression or anxiety, it’s important to seek help. See your GP to discuss your symptoms and put together a mental health care plan. You can also start by seeking more information about mental health from Beyond Blue.

What if you’re clenching during the day?

If you’re clenching and grinding during the day, the first step is to bring your awareness to it, so you can start to break the habit loop. Notice when your jaw is tense, and make a conscious effort to relax it. You might start to recognise triggers that are making you clench. Over time, you’ll get better at consciously relaxing, reducing the frequency and severity of your bruxism.

“If you’re aware of it, remember that you have control, and you can retrain your habits,” Dr Jiang says. “Just keep reminding yourself – you know it’s bad for your teeth and your muscles. Just try something to help break the habit.”

In this Article:

    • Introduction
    • Self-Help Guide to Reduce Grinding and Clenching
        • Jaw Exercises
        • Self-Massage
        • Personalized Nutrition
        • Relaxation Techniques
    • Additional Resources to Explore

Introduction:

Stressed? Your teeth may show it. When you are stressed, your muscles tend to tighten; the same concept applies to your jaw muscles and can result in teeth grinding and/or clenching in some individuals. While grinding and clenching can occur subconsciously, there are many self-help techniques one can embrace to decrease these detrimental practices. In this article, we provide some suggested exercises for stretching the jaw muscles and reducing tension in the jaw and also, some further resources to explore to learn more about the impact of stress on oral health.

Self-Help Guide to Reduce Grinding and Clenching:

While mouth guards are the typical prescription given to those suffering from bruxism (problems with grinding/clenching of the teeth), there are many modalities inspired from integrative medicine that can be utilized in combination with or as an alternative to the use of mouth guards.

Jaw Exercises/Mindful Teeth Placement:

  • Open the mouth as wide as comfortably possible and touch tongue to front teeth. This action relaxes the jaw muscles.
  • Do not allow your top and bottom teeth to make contact except when chewing. To prevent the teeth from touching, say the letter “n” to position the tongue and keep your mouth in this position as you work to avoid clenching.

Self-Massage:

  • Massaging your jaw can help your jaw muscles relax and reduce the tension in this area. Additionally, holding a warm towel against your jaw can also promote muscle relaxation.

Personalized Nutrition:

  • Personalized nutrition involves tailoring a diet specific to your own particular needs. Individuals suffering from bruxism may benefit from decreasing the intake of caffeine and alcohol, which are substances that can augment grinding and clenching problems. Also, consuming mainly soft foods and avoiding tough/hard food items and gum chewing can help prevent overuse of your jaw muscles.

Relaxation Techniques:

  • For many, clenching and grinding are directly related to struggles with properly managing stress. Utilizing methods to reduce stress can be an effective way to combat bruxism. Many relaxation techniques exist, such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, deep breathing exercises, massage, progressive muscle relaxation, and much more. Learn more about these relaxation techniques in Additional Articles to Explore and Related Content below.

Additional Articles to Explore:

  • When Stress Takes a Toll on Your Teeth
  • Many Turn to Teeth Grinding for Stress Relief
  • Can Exercise Help TMJ?
  • Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
  • Dental Health and Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

By Shannon Wongvibulsin, BS Candidate, UCLA 2014
UCLA Center East-West Medicine, Staff Writer

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