- To stop grinding your teeth, you should ask your dentist about getting a mouth guard or restoring your bite.
- You can also try to stop grinding your teeth by managing stress and practicing jaw exercises.
- If left untreated, teeth grinding can cause enamel loss, receding gums, and chipped teeth.
- This article was medically reviewed by Marianna Weiner, DDS, a cosmetic dentist at Envy Smile Dental Spa.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, affects around one in five adults, or about 20% of the adult population worldwide. Any mashing, gnashing, clenching, or chewing movement you do when you’re not eating can be considered a form of bruxism.
Teeth grinding can be hard to quit, especially if you do it in your sleep. But, if left unaddressed, grinding your teeth can lead to long-term complications like enamel loss and receding gums. That’s why it’s important to diagnose and curb the habit.
How do I know if I’m grinding my teeth?
There are two main types of teeth grinding: daily and nocturnal. Most people who grind their teeth during the day are aware of it. But, if you only grind your teeth at night, it’s possible you might not even know.
Zachary Linhart, MD, a dentist who owns his own practice in New York City and specialises in cosmetic and restorative dentistry, is all too familiar with the signs of subconscious teeth grinding.
“The most common visual sign is straight, sharp edges of your teeth, indicating that you are grinding away the tooth enamel,” he says. Other signs you may be gnashing your teeth include:
- Tooth pain and sensitivity
- Decreasing facial lift, causing the corners of your mouth to drop
- Facial pain
- Difficulty chewing and marks on the inside of your cheek
- Dull pain located around your temples that may extend to the bottom of your jaw
In addition to your dentist, other healthcare professionals – like your general practitioner – can diagnose bruxism. A psychologist may also be able to spot bruxism if it’s linked to other conditions like anxiety or stress.
How to stop grinding your teeth
Treatment for bruxism is best overseen by a dental professional, but there are some strategies you can try at home to supplement treatment and kick the habit.
1. Use a mouth guard
According to Linhart, the most common treatment for bruxism is a mouth guard. Linhart says mouth guards won’t stop you from grinding or clenching your teeth, but it can protect them from the adverse effects of doing so.
Mouth guards are typically for nighttime use, but people who have more severe grinding and clenching symptoms might be advised to wear the guard during the day.
The process of getting a mouth guard is simple, and the guard itself is easy to wear. Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth to create a custom mouth guard that’s comfortable for you.
2. Restore your bite to normal
A reductive coronoplasty is a procedure that levels out the surface of your teeth. If the source of your bruxism and jaw clenching is uneven teeth, this procedure may be helpful.
Once the surfaces of your teeth are aligned, you may feel less tempted to compulsively grind. Your dentist can identify if you are a good candidate for this type of treatment.
3. Try Botox
Once injected, Botox limits the mobility of the muscles in your jaw responsible for teeth grinding. This treatment is popular for people who have underlying conditions that cause involuntary bruxism, like autism.
Because results only last three to six months, Botox injections are a temporary solution. A 2016 review published in Clinical Treatment Options in Neurology found the long-term benefit of Botox for bruxism was unclear, often because current studies have a small sample size. Botox is considered a low risk procedure, but there is a slight risk of side effects. These include muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing.
4. Take muscle relaxants
Prescription muscle relaxants may be beneficial for those who grind their teeth at night as they can ease jaw-clenching muscles while you sleep. Because muscle relaxants impair driving, they’re not suited for daytime use.
There is little research on the effectiveness of this treatment due to a lack of long-term studies with larger sample sizes. Therefore, you should consult with your oral surgeon before taking muscle relaxants.
5. Manage stress and anxiety
Because stress can cause increased grinding and clenching, managing it may ease your bruxism, Linhart says. While regulating stress is easier said than done, there are effective strategies to do so. These include:
- Aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Practicing meditation, which can also help you become more aware of jaw clenching
- Mental health support services, such as seeing a therapist
6. Relax before bed
Taking the time to unwind before you hit the sheets may ease nighttime teeth grinding. Some ways to improve your bedtime routine to help you relax include:
- A white noise machine
- Going to bed at regular time
- A warm compress on your jaw
- Drinking herbal teas – especially ones with chamomile
- Limiting internet, TV, and phone use
7. Stop chewing things that aren’t food
Chewing ice, gum, or anything else that’s not food, activates the chewing reflex that instigates grinding. It’s also best to avoid foods that are chewy, sticky, hard, or crunchy.
8. Practice tongue and jaw exercises
Tongue and jaw exercises may work to relieve clenching and make nocturnal grinding less likely.
One simple exercise is to hold the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and practice opening your mouth and shutting it. This stretch may release tension being held in the muscles that surround your jaw.
What causes teeth grinding?
You can develop bruxism at any point in your life. Sometimes children will pick up the habit as a way to self-soothe, and the habit will continue into adulthood. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that bruxism is more common in children than adults, and that one-third of childhood sleep grinders won’t outgrow the habit.
There is likely an underlying emotional or neurological component to your teeth grinding. Stressful events, post-traumatic stress disorder, or feelings of anxiety can provoke bruxism. Understanding when you started to grind your teeth – and why – might help you determine the best way to stop.
A 2018 study published in Swiss Dental Journal found that risk factors for bruxism in adults included:
A 2019 medical review published in the Open Journal of Macedonian Medical Studies found additional causes of bruxism, such as:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Teeth crowding
- Certain antidepressants
- Down syndrome
There are long-term complications to teeth grinding
Teeth grinding causes “major wear and tear” to your pearly whites, according to Linhart, which is why it’s important to seek treatment for it.
For example, bruxism can lead to complications like:
- Chipped teeth
- Worn enamel
- Receding gums
- Bone loss
- Jaw disorders
- Chronic headaches
The bottom line
Bruxism is a tough habit to break, especially for nighttime teeth grinders who may not be aware of it. Even if you try to treat your teeth grinding with home remedies, it’s important to reach out to a dentist. They can help monitor your progress and recommend other treatment options if necessary.
One treatment option that isn’t on the table is simply waiting for the habit to resolve itself. “Address the situation as soon as possible,” Linhart says. “Enamel, once gone, is gone forever.”