Bruxism is the technical term for the grinding, clenching, or gnashing of one’s own teeth that occurs during sleep. It is believed that as many as one out of four people suffer from bruxism to at least some degree. According to the University of Virginia Health System, the harms of bruxism include damage to and weakening of teeth, sore jaw muscles, and damage to the tongue and cheeks. If you have ever bitten your tongue or cheek while consciously chewing, you might imagine that it can happen far more often and with greater force when you have no control over your actions. The longer your bruxism persists, the worse it can get.
There are a number of treatments for teeth grinding at night that have demonstrated varying levels of success. The cause of bruxism is something to be considered before treating it. Stress is one of the main causes of bruxism. In this case, the problem is not bruxism itself – the problem is the stress, and it should be treated as such. Start a case-specific stress management program (formal or informal), then re-assess your situation. This could involve something as simple as getting a full night’s sleep or making sure you are getting regular exercise.
However, if bruxism is brought on by something other than stress, like a misalignment of the jaw or teeth, treatment for teeth grinding at night lies in a dental solution. Dentists can treat bruxism by fitting a mouth guard to wear at night; avoid using generic sports mouth guards as they tend to come out of place and cause more discomfort than they solve. Most users will find that mouth guards improve their situations, but they are not without drawbacks. Over time, a mouth guard can become worn down and lose its effectiveness. Further, when sufferers have tried to stop using the mouth guard, they have generally found that the pain and symptoms return, making it more of a patch up remedy than a permanent solution.
If bruxism is brought on by a misaligned jaw or by crooked and uneven teeth, a more aggressive treatment for teeth grinding at night like braces or jaw realignment may be applied. While braces do not sound fun and conjure up pictures of the seemingly wired jaws of years past, modern technology is much more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing even to the point where other people cannot tell that you are wearing braces.
In some cases, the foods you eat can encourage bruxism. As treatment for teeth grinding at night, WebMD recommends avoiding foods and drinks that contain high concentrations of caffeine or alcohol, as these can enhance grinding. Also, avoid any unnecessary chewing. Stay away from things like chewing gum as it embeds clenching and grinding into muscle memory. Try to relax your jaw muscles with a warm washcloth or a heating pad at least once a day to ease their tension.