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How Do I Stop Grinding My Teeth?

May 8th, 2024 | 4 min read

By NYC Smile Design

Person grinding their teeth due to tmj

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a prevalent condition that can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and various dental problems. 

At NYC Smile Design, we encounter numerous cases, equipping us with the insights necessary to address this condition effectively.

This blog is designed to equip readers with practical strategies to either stop or mitigate teeth grinding, enhancing their oral health and reducing the risk of associated complications.

What is Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) and Its Impact

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, involves forcefully rubbing the teeth together or clenching the jaw, often unconsciously. This habit can happen while awake, known as awake bruxism, or during sleep, referred to as sleep bruxism. Various factors can cause bruxism, including stress, anxiety, an abnormal bite, airway/breathing issues, side effects of certain medications, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. 

Common signs of bruxism include:

  • A sore jaw is often felt after waking up in the case of sleep bruxism.
  • Persistent headaches, particularly in the morning.
  • Teeth that are visibly flattened, fractured, chipped, or worn down, indicate the extent of grinding.
  • Increased tooth sensitivity or pain due to the wearing away of tooth enamel

Display of where the pressure is on each tooth

Over time, the relentless nature of teeth grinding can cause significant dental health issues. These include extensive damage to the tooth's surface, potential tooth loss, loss of skin and midface support, and exacerbation of TMJ symptoms, making it critical to diagnose and treat bruxism promptly. Effective management of bruxism is crucial to prevent long-term detrimental effects on both the teeth and jaw, safeguarding the individual's overall oral health.

Connection Between Bruxism and TMJ

The connection between bruxism and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders is a significant aspect of dental health, as the habitual grinding or clenching of teeth known as bruxism can severely impact the TMJ. This joint, essential for jaw movement and function, can suffer from the excessive force exerted during teeth grinding. Such actions can lead to or exacerbate TMJ disorders, characterized by symptoms including jaw pain, limited movement of the mouth, and audible sounds like clicking or popping during jaw motion.

The ongoing pressure from bruxism on the TMJ may result in increased joint stress, leading to inflammation and discomfort. Over time, this can cause the joint's components to wear down, potentially altering the jaw's alignment and function and create arthritic like degeneration. The persistent grinding not only aggravates the joint but can also cause muscle fatigue and discomfort around the jaw and neck area. Consequently, addressing bruxism is a crucial step in alleviating TMJ symptoms and preventing further joint damage, underscoring the intertwined nature of these conditions in maintaining oral health.

TMJ Disorders Diagram

Effective Strategies to Reduce Teeth Grinding and Clenching

To effectively reduce teeth grinding, a multi-faceted approach can be beneficial:

Stress Management Techniques

Managing stress is a key factor in lessening bruxism. Activities like yoga, mindfulness meditation, and regular exercise can play a significant role in reducing overall stress levels, thereby potentially decreasing the occurrence of teeth grinding. Counseling or therapy can also be effective in identifying and managing the sources of stress and anxiety that may exacerbate bruxism.

Dental Interventions

Dental solutions are vital in protecting the teeth and alleviating the effects of bruxism.

  1. Custom-fitted mouthguards, created by dental professionals, provide a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing wear and mitigating jaw compression and strain. 
  2. Orthodontic treatments can rectify misaligned teeth, a common effect of and cause of bruxism, while dental corrections like adjusting bites or repairing damaged teeth can also reduce factors that exacerbate grinding and clenching. 
  3. Botox injections in the jaw muscles can alleviate the intense pressure exerted on the teeth during clenching, helping to mitigate the discomfort and potential dental damage caused by clenching and grinding.

Lifestyle and Behavioral Changes

Modifying daily routines and habits can contribute significantly to controlling bruxism. Limiting stimulants such as caffeine, especially in the evening, can reduce the likelihood of grinding teeth during sleep. Avoiding habitual chewing on non-food items like pens or gum can prevent unnecessary jaw clenching and muscle conditioning that leads to bruxism. Incorporating relaxation and stress-relief techniques before bedtime, such as warm baths, reading, or listening to calming music, can promote relaxation and reduce the likelihood of teeth grinding. If you are taking medications that induce clenching and grinding, consider alternatives or protective mouth guards. 

Breathing and Airway Management

Assessment of breathing, sleep, and airway issues is critical to managing bruxism. There is a correlation between bruxism, tooth arch development, proper nasal breathing vs mouth breathing, obstructive sleep apnea/disorders, and TMJ disorders. A comprehensive evaluation of the anatomy and airway with your dentist and an ENT, if deemed necessary, is paramount. Working together is the best way to address these issues.

Professional Treatments and Therapies

When it comes to addressing bruxism and TMJ disorders, a range of professional treatments and therapies are available to provide relief and manage symptoms effectively. Physical therapy can help alleviate jaw tension and improve mobility, while Botox injections may be used to relax the muscles involved in clenching, reducing both the frequency and intensity of the episodes. Specific dental procedures, such as adjusting the bite or replacing worn dental restorations, can also play a crucial role in treating these conditions. Personalized treatment plans are essential, as they take into account the individual's unique dental and medical history, ensuring the chosen therapies are both effective and appropriate. Airway, obstructive sleep apnea/disorder, and breathing management are critical.

Maintaining Oral Health and Preventing Further Complications

Maintaining good oral hygiene is paramount in preventing the complications that can arise from persistent teeth grinding. Regular brushing, flossing, and the use of mouthwash can help keep the teeth and gums healthy and free from the effects of bruxism. Additionally, routine dental check-ups are vital in catching and addressing any early signs of wear or damage to the teeth and jaw structure. These visits allow dental professionals to monitor the condition's progression and adjust treatment plans as necessary. By staying vigilant with oral care and keeping up with dental appointments, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of long-term complications associated with teeth grinding and TMJ disorders.

Consultation with Dr. Mello

Your Teeth Grinding Journey

While bruxism and TMJ disorders can be challenging, effective management is possible with the right strategies and professional guidance. This blog has outlined actionable steps to help individuals reduce teeth grinding and improve their oral health.

If you're grappling with teeth grinding or TMJ symptoms, consider scheduling a consultation with a dental professional at NYC Smile Design. Our expert team is committed to providing personalized care and exploring the most suitable treatment options for your condition.