We hear a lot from tmd patients who have problems with grinding and clenching.
Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth together during the day or grind/clench them at night. If you do this at night it’s called sleep bruxism. Right now the medical community doesn’t know what causes grinding and clenching but there are things we can do to help mitigate it or lessen it.
Top tips for daytime clenching/grinding
- Set a timer for every 3 minutes and check to make sure you are not clenching or grinding your teeth together, once you found yourself not doing it you can slowly increase the length of time.
- Wear a guard if you are going to be doing stressful work
- Limit your caffeine intake
- Don’t chew gum!
- Consider checking out some great apps to help with your stress level and to try and be conscious of clenching/grinding
Top tips for Grinding/Clenching at night
- Shut off all media 1hr before bedtime, the goal is a calm environment
- Deep breathing exercises or even a simple yoga routine
- Supplements like magnesium, they have a relaxing effect. If you are taking medications though please check with your doctor. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or other medications.
- Limit your caffeine intake or eliminate it all together
- Biofeedback. There are devices that can be worn during sleep that measure the amount of grinding and clenching that you do, and interrupt it with a sound. Over time you learn not to grind or clench. One such device is SleepGuard. It is a biofeedback headband that also tracks how many times you clench during the night.
Another device is GrindCare (Update, Dec 2013: GrindCare seems to have gone out of business). GrindCare works by registering muscle activity and sending a mild electrical impulse that interrupts the teeth grinding. The GrindCare device comes with a lightweight electrode you place on your temple when you go to bed at night.
If conservative methods are not working then consider talking with your doctor about ordering a sleep lab test to check for/rule out other sleep problems. Sleep apnea may also be related to sleep bruxism, and some doctors suggest that treating sleep apnea can help alleviate sleep bruxism.
If none of these other options are working then please talk with your doctor about the option of medication, I know it’s not the first choice but sometimes it can be helpful if nothing else has worked. I’ve also heard that sometimes medication can be used to break the night time clenching/grinding cycle and then later you can wean off the meds. Again, discuss this with your doctor.
My feeling is that “bruxing” or grinding your teeth is the bodies attempt to restore normal muscle oxygen. That may explain why when someone has sleep apnea they also brux.
“Bruxing” or grinding your teeth is the bodies way to restore normal muscle metabolism. That need for additional oxygen pumped into the muscles by grinding your teeth is why grinding increases in sleep apnea. Sleep apnea results in lower blood oxygen which means more blood needs to flow to get the necessary oxygen.
Kristen, thanks so much for the Sleepguard tip. I had my doubts, but I had tried so many things over the past ten years that I thought, well, what do I have to lose? Actually, I lost a decent amount of my pain (was clenching between 160-200 times a night, now down to 14-34). My headaches–the bane of my existence and the thing that kept me from working–are much more managable. Not saying that this is perfect or will work for everyone, but with the 21 day trial it’s worth trying.
This is the best list of grinding helpers I have ever seen! 🙂
“Right now the medical community doesn’t know what causes grinding and clenching but there are things we can do to help mitigate it or lessen it.” – this is NOT TRUE. The research has shown that the major cause of bruxism is obstructive sleep apnea with other causes being malocclusion (bad bite), medications & drugs and stress. Bruxism occurs at the end of the apnea event in an effort to bring the lower jaw and thus tongue forward to reduce obstruction. This may explain why the majority of tooth wear we see is on the biting surface of front teeth.