How do I stop grinding my teeth at night?
January 12, 2005 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Teeth grinding and biting. My boyfriend has been complaining that I bite my teeth together quite loudly when I sleep. My google research indicates that this qualifies as bruxism and that it's probably stress related, but has anyone had any success with any particular forms of stress reduction (exercises, meditations, etc.) or behavioral modifications to solve this?
posted by occhiblu to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not I. The only thing that has worked has been a dentist-made tooth guard, worn for an extended period, until your subconscious brain is trained to regard tooth-grinding as unsatisfying (because the guard takes away the tooth-on-tooth friction, presumably.) Some advice if you have one of these made: I'd go for one that covers the lower teeth, because the upper-jaw ones have plastic that covers the roof of the mouth...saliva collects... discomfort ensues.
posted by stonerose at 9:17 AM on January 12, 2005

Best answer: I'm a teeth grinder/jaw clencher. I also experienced headaches as a result of grinding my teeth. When I asked my dentist about how to fix it (thinking maybe a mouthpiece was in order) he told me that eliminating stress would probably help more than anything.

To de-stress, I had to identify what was stressing me, and either learn to cope with it or eliminate it. My sources of stress were dealing with the end of a relationship and not accepting who I was. I found reading, journaling, and just chilling out worked wonders.

Still, I would definitely ask a dentist about it.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 9:30 AM on January 12, 2005

Best answer: I was a situational grinder when I went through a really stressful period in my life that was just going to take some time working itself out. I started taking St John's Wort regularly. For me, it took about a week or so to really start working and then once it did, the grinding problem stopped. Once the stress went away, I went off the St John's Wort.
posted by jessamyn at 9:34 AM on January 12, 2005

You better get a night guard before you mash all your teeth away. I had a similar issue (grinding, though, not biting) and I had a lot of headaches during the day. My dentist recommended a night guard, I got one, and lo, the headaches went away. Plus it'll save your mouth.
posted by xmutex at 9:57 AM on January 12, 2005

Best answer: Meditate for 10 minutes every night, about half an hour before retiring - worked for me when I was in grad school.

Meanwhile, my bruxie retainer sits sad and alone in the back of the bottom drawer.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2005

If you search medline or google scholar, you find that the treatment literature is definitely not awash with successes. These kinds of situations commonly lead people to try all kinds of things, some of which may be wacko, and others of which might be successful. Problem is, that in the absence of controlled clinical trials, everyone relies on anecdotal case histories. Just poking around, I came across this guy, Nissani, who might be a lunatic, or may be onto something, using a bad-taste based approach (you get a bad taste when you bite down).
posted by jasper411 at 10:18 AM on January 12, 2005

Yup: doubleteam yoga and a mouth guard. I have the upper-teeth variety, and often I wake up and find it in weird places -- under the pillow, on the floor, in the fridge. But it still helps, really, even though i *hate it*. (And my biggest fear, choking to death in my sleep, doesn't seem like it's going to come true.) Seriously -- you'd rather wear the mouth guard then have your teeth worn down to nasty little fractured nubs or have to get TMJ surgery, which can be *really extreme*.

I think I'm going to try the recommended St. John's Wort.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:20 AM on January 12, 2005

Response by poster: I actually don't grind my teeth, just knock the front ones together, and I go to the dentist fairly regularly and they haven't noticed any enamel problems, so I'm less concerned with hurting my teeth than with annoying my boyfriend, really. (Though I could see the potential for throwing my front teeth out of alignment, eventually.)

I've noticed myself knocking my teeth together when I'm awake and trying to puzzle something out, so I can definitely see that I've "trained" my body to do that, if that makes any sense. Now I just need it to stop!
posted by occhiblu at 10:26 AM on January 12, 2005

This sounds more like a habit, or a "nervous tick". These are usually a symptom of anxiety or insecurity.

As other people have mentioned, try relaxing before going to bed:
1. Stretch (don't exercise) and try to keep your head clear of stressful thoughts (work etc.).
2. Read a non-stressful book until you're just about to fall asleep.
3. Hot shower right before going to bed.
4. Glass of wine about 1/2 hour before going to bed.

Here's an article with a number of suggestions on how to break bad habits.
posted by purephase at 10:40 AM on January 12, 2005

Off-topic note about St. John's Wort: it interferes with birth control pills. Please beware of the interaction if you're considering taking them both!

I have bruxism too, and my ex used to massage my jaw gently at night to make me stop. Sometimes I'd wake up and be irritated with him, but I was always thankful that he'd intervened.

I'm planning to get the guard someday, but it sounds awfully expensive. My dentist says that I must get one custom-fitted because the generic kind don't work very well. Is that true?
posted by equipoise at 11:15 AM on January 12, 2005

Get your dentist to see if you need an Occlusal Adjustment. It's an adjustment of your bite so that your teeth strike correctly. Signs you might need it. I used to clench my teeth and this is helping a lot. I would subconsciously bite against the teeth that hit wrong trying to get my jaw in the right position. I had braces as a kid, have straight, healthy teeth, didn't have trouble chewing and have always had good dental care, but things only need to be a bit off to cause problems. It's a process that takes several visits because they precisely grind points down a teeny, tiny bit at a time.
posted by lobakgo at 12:10 PM on January 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

I have a mouth guard I got at Fred Meyer's (big grocery + kind of department store in the NW) for like $25 - I guess it's the same as the sports kind, though this one was definitely marketed as a night guard. It's a generic teeth shaped thing and you put it in boiling water to soften it, then bite on it and shape it to the width of your jaw. It's amazing - I never realized how bad the grinding and clenching was until I got this thing, and now when I forget it, I wake up sore and headachy and with my jaw clicking. That never happens when I wear it.
Sometimes I wear it when working on particularly stressful school assignments. That helps, too, because I tend to clench my jaw while I'm doing that. I suppose this is not better in the long term than learning to relax, but grad school will be over soon ...
posted by librarina at 1:06 PM on January 12, 2005

Best answer: I was told that I used to grind my teeth and have had a dentist tell me that I should have a guard. My current dentist who teaches at the local dentistry school told me that my grinding would amount to minimal wear and that my former dentist was a little bit overzealous. This was a while ago.

I do not seem to do grind or clench any more, It may seem funny but I actually trained my self to wait until the moment while I was falling asleep that I felt my jaw clench and relaxed it again before I fell asleep. Sounds funny but it actually worked. I was pretty amazed myself. I did this at least 7 years ago.
posted by vidarling at 7:15 PM on January 12, 2005

Best answer: I experience bruxism, too. My osteopath told me to take 1000-1500mg of pantothenic acid (which is also vitamin B5) before going to bed. I guess it sort of acts as a muscle relaxer. I find it works, and I wake up a little less tense in the jaw. Cutting out all caffeine works as well -- I was amazed at the difference.
posted by gingembre at 9:04 PM on January 12, 2005

My dentist says I grind my teeth while I sleep as well, although, my wife says that she's never noticed it. I did get the mouthguard, and find it horribly difficult to sleep with. Given the cost (thank goodness it was covered by my plan, it was almost $400 CDN), and the fact that I've only used it 3 times in 4 months (it's just so uncomfortable!) I don't know if it's the way to go. Perhaps it's better to treat the cause and not the symptom?

As for St. John's Wort, I used to take it for a while last summer. I ended up switching to 5-htp, and find that the htp helps me deal with stress much better. It's available at most health food stores.
posted by burhan at 11:26 PM on January 12, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you all for your help. Yesterday I ended up cutting all alcohol, going to the gym for an hour, and taking a multivitamin, and my boyfriend said I didn't chatter my teeth last night (though I did, apparently, talk in my sleep), so I will try all your other relaxation advice and see how long I can make it last!

Also, vidarling, when I was looking online for answers yesterday, a number of sites said autohypnosis, done right when you're about to fall asleep, is often an effective treatment -- just telling your body to relax and that it doesn't need to grind -- so perhaps that's what you've done.
posted by occhiblu at 8:28 AM on January 13, 2005

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