If you are a grinder or clencher and have been for some time you could be at risk of gum disease, bone loss, joint degeneration and more. More women grind their teeth than men and children tend to be at a high risk for this problem as well. The most common age group for clenching and grinding is 20 to 40 years of age.
There are a number of things you can do to help prevent clenching and grinding your teeth and they include:
You can get a customized mouth guard from your dentist but a traditional, store-bought boil and bite can also be effective enough for occasional teeth grinders. Wearing a mouth guard will not stop you from grinding your teeth necessarily but it will help protect your teeth if you do clench or grind. You are essentially redistribute the pressure that would otherwise be placed on your teeth and jaw. Some people find a mouth guard uncomfortable or don’t end up putting it in if they are someone who falls asleep on the couch or while watching television so this might not be the best option for everyone.
Retrain Your Muscles
During the day do a few different mouth exercises to try and retrain your muscles to relax more. Seal your lips but make sure your teeth are apart. Let your jaw drop and let the muscles relax. Your teeth should really only be touching each other when you are eating or chewing. Periodically, check in with yourself throughout the day and make sure you maintain a relaxed disposition.
Before you head to bed for the night do something that relaxes you. This could be a warm bath or shower, meditation, reading, doing yoga or guided relaxation. If you go to bed more calm and relaxed you may find you clench and grind less at night.
Regular exercise during the day and not necessarily before bedtime can really help you reset your sleep patterns and reduce the stress you feel in your life. This can make for a better night’s sleep and help you protect your teeth and jaw.
If you have an aggravated jaw or pain in your teeth or gums you can apply heat to reduce the inflammation and pain that you may be experiencing. This can also help relax your jaw muscles quite a bit so that when you do fall asleep you won’t clench or grind quite as much or as hard.
Avoid Hard Or Crunchy Foods
If you eat a lot of hard and crunchy foods such as steak, gum, crusty bread, raw vegetables, etc. you could be aggravating your jaw. If you have a swollen and inflamed jaw during the day then you are almost guaranteed to keep the clenching and grinding going at night.
This article is written by Dr. Nguyen, a Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Rocklin, CA. He received his DDS degree from the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, NY.