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  • Writer's pictureChris Salierno, DDS

I think I'm grinding my teeth. What can I do to stop?

There have been recent reports that people are grinding their teeth now more than ever before. The New York Times shared the story of a dentist who saw an increase in broken teeth this year, which is related to clenching and grinding. The American Dental Association conducted a poll and found that dentists noted an almost 60% increase in grinding habits in their patients. Let's talk about what your next steps should be.

First, there's a difference between clenching a grinding. Clenching is when you squeeze your teeth together and grinding is when you forcefully slide them on top of each other. Everyone does this from time to time, but if you do it frequently and with enough pressure then we call the condition bruxism. The second major distinction dentists make is the timing of the habit. If you do it during the day we will often call it awake bruxism. If you do it when you sleep we will often call it sleep bruxism.

Signs of bruxism include things like sore jaw muscles, broken or worn teeth, and TMJ issues like your jaw locking in place.

The first thing you should do if you suspect bruxism is see your dentist. He or she can evaluate your symptoms and get some important answers, like how severe the problem is and if there are other issues going on.

If you're clenching and grinding during the day then therapy revolves around trying to break the habit and reduce stress. You may be able to stop the habit!

If you have have sleep bruxism, a dentist will first look to see if you have other sleep-related disorders, such as sleep apnea. The dentist may then recommend a night guard, which covers and protects your teeth. There are many different designs of night guards and they can be made from many different materials. Your dentist can help find the right kind of night guard for you. It may not be possible to stop sleep bruxism!

I strongly caution patients against using "over-the-counter" night guards that are made at home. These are often referred to as "boil-and-bite" appliances because you heat up the material and then shape it around your teeth. Some can also be made from impressions you take at home. In both cases there is the potential danger of making something that doesn't fit you correctly. These kinds of night guards can not work properly or, even worse, can cause shifting of your teeth and jaws.

There is a new device called BruxRelief, a home bruxism test that allows you to see if you are clenching or grinding while you sleep or during the day. You can order one yourself or you can order one with your dentist to help you interpret the results.


Disclaimer: ToothQuest is for informational purposes only and is not to be taken as dental, medical, or legal advice.  Please consult with your dentist or other appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions that would affect your health.

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