Teeth Clenching and Grinding

Being housebound can lead to a certain level of stress. In a world of uncertainly, it is not uncommon to feel anxious about our current circumstances and how this will impact our family and work-life in the long term.

A symptom of stress can be teeth clenching and grinding, which can then become an ongoing subconscious habit. It can also be seen in people who do not have a history of suffering from anxiety.

Issues which may then arise include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Cracked/split teeth
  • Broken fillings/crowns
  • Painful teeth
  • “Bruxism” which is the clinical term for clenching and grinding that leads to wearing down of your teeth. This may occur during the day and/or more commonly just at night whilst asleep.

Consequences of these symptoms potentially include:

  • A sore jaw
  • Facial pain
  • Irritating your sleeping partner
  • Exposing the deeper layers of your teeth from the repetitive wearing away of enamel
  • Loss of teeth and gum recession
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders.

What can I do?

If you catch yourself clenching and grinding during the day, a conscious effort needs to be made to train yourself not to do so. One technique is to position your tongue in between your teeth with minimal pressure. Doing this may help to train your jaw muscles to relax.

Also, avoid chewing anything else but food! This includes avoiding chewing gum as it causes your jaw muscles to get more tense and conditioned to clenching. This in turn leads to grinding of your teeth and wearing down of tooth enamel which can have functional and aesthetic consequences.

For night-time grinding, try to reduce the force or amount of clenching and grinding that occur subconsciously whist asleep. Some at home solutions include:

  • Ensuring you get a good night’s sleep by switching off screens one hour before sleeping.
  • Avoiding caffeine after lunch and alcohol before bed.
  • Stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga and light reading.
  • Applying heat packs to your jaw muscles (masseters) to relieve muscle tension.
  • Muscle release by massage to your masseters for 10 minutes daily. Consult your physiotherapist if necessary.
  • Wearing a night guard- fitted by your dentist, which will protect your teeth and help to prevent wearing down of enamel. If you cannot see us due to lockdown, you may find it easier to get a sports mouth guard from your pharmacy in the meantime, but as these are not custom fitted to your mouth, they should not be worn long term.

It is important to note that teeth grinding is not always stress related. Often bruxism is caused by medications you take, alcohol use before bed, other sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea or insomnia), reflux or neurological disorders. In some cases, sleep bruxism has no underlying cause and it simply is a part of who you are.

As always, we are here if you have any questions.