Do you often wake up with a sore jaw? Does your partner hear nighttime grinding noises coming from your side of the bed? You may be experiencing jaw clenching or tooth grinding. This common habit is the cause of several serious dental conditions, including tooth sensitivity, so it's important to learn how to stop.
Dentists have a name for tooth grinding and tooth clenching; it's called bruxism. If it occurs at night, it's called sleep bruxism. Many times, dentists notice the condition because when it becomes severe enough, it can damage the enamel on your teeth.
How can you tell if your nightly tooth clenching could lead to dental problems?
If you notice any of these symptoms, check in with your dentist to evaluate the possible causes. If not addressed, bruxism can damage tooth enamel, chipped teeth and broken teeth. You can also take proactive steps to prevent nighttime grinding.
Most clenching and grinding is caused by emotional stress or anxiety. To stop bruxism from occurring, you should address any stressful situations in your life. Then take these steps to relax before bed:
Let go of negative thoughts: Keep a notepad by your bed. If you feel anxious before bedtime, take five minutes to write down your feelings. This process may help calm negative thoughts that could be causing nighttime clenching.
Practice mindful awareness: As you close your eyes to drift off to sleep, become aware of the tension in your jaw. Sometimes just the motion of putting your head on the pillow signals the jaw to start clenching. Consciously loosen and relax the muscles in your jaw and your face. If you wake during the night, repeat the relaxation process.
Ask your partner for help: If your bedmate hears you grinding at night, ask him or her to give you a nudge. When you wake up, repeat the mindful awareness exercise before you going back to sleep.
Consider a mouth guard: If you still need help to learning how to stop clenching your teeth at night, talk to your dentist about getting a mouth guard. You can purchase a mouth guard at many local drugstores, or your dentist may recommend that you have one custom made.