Stop Grinding Your Teeth!

Masseter muscle trigger points (radiating pain due to chronic teeth grinding)
Masseter muscle trigger points (radiating pain due to chronic teeth grinding) | Source

Do You Grind Your Teeth?

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Up to 30% of the population chronically grinds their teeth, which in dental terms is called bruxism. This usually occurs at night when the person is sleeping.

While this may not sound very serious, the forces that grinding the teeth places on both the teeth and jaw joint are enormous.

Serious or chronic cases of night time teeth grinding can result in chipped teeth, cracked teeth, the wearing down of the crowns of the teeth, tooth fracture, tooth loss, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues, chronic migraine headaches, overdeveloped facial muscles (hypertrophic masseter), torticollis (chronically locked neck), and in extreme cases spinal pain and eventual spinal degeneration.

Most people who chronically grind their teeth are looking for natural ways by which to stop. Even if they're not suffering from extreme symptoms, they may have noticed some wearing away of their tooth surfaces.

Most of the time dental health professionals will alert you to the fact that you're grinding, but the truth is that most people already know. If you're not sure whether you grind your teeth, check out the symptoms below.

General Clues That You're Probably Grinding Your Teeth

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Have You Experienced Any Of These Symptoms?

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General Clues That You're Probably Grinding Your Teeth

  • Over-developed muscles of the jaw, making your jaw appear wide and boxy. Usually the masseter muscle becomes hypertrophic (over-developed), but sometimes both the masseter and temporalis muscles can be affected
  • A tired, sore jaw without any other explanation. Usually this occurs in the morning after getting out of bed. It can hurt or be mildly sore to talk or eat breakfast
  • Pain in front of or behind the ear, which is a symptom of jaw joint (TMJ) pain
  • Chronic clicking of the TMJ either on one side or both. If you ever notice clicking when you open your mouth, this could be due to teeth grinding
  • An inability to open your mouth very widely compared to people around you. The dental term for this is trismus, but the more common term is lockjaw
  • Chronically occurring migraine headaches that usually appear in the temporal or temple region of the face
  • A grinding or loud tapping sound occurring while you're sleeping. Sometimes this will wake the person up, but usually it's someone's partner who picks up on this fact
  • A chronic tilting of the neck to one side, called torticollis. This can be due to muscle spasms resulting from teeth grinding
  • Spinal pain with no known cause can sometimes be traced back to unresolved torticollis and teeth grinding

Dental Clues That You're Probably Grinding Your Teeth

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Dental Clues That You're Probably Grinding Your Teeth

  • Excessive wear to the crowns of your teeth, otherwise known as the chewing or biting surfaces of the teeth
  • Highly sensitive teeth due to the shearing away of the protective layers of the teeth
  • Mobility of the teeth from the constant back and forth motion of grinding the teeth under pressure. This damages the ligaments that hold the teeth in place
  • The formation of notches on the teeth near the gum line, called abfraction. This is caused by the excessive pressure placed on the teeth while grinding. Enamel is thinnest toward the gum line and just "pops off" when enough pressure is exerted on the teeth
  • Chipping or cracking of the teeth due to the immense forces exerted during grinding
  • Sore teeth due to inflamed periodontal ligaments, the things that hold the teeth in place. These ligaments are what anchors the teeth to the jaw bone
  • Lip or cheek bites that have no immediate or forthcoming explanation

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

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What Causes Teeth Grinding?

There's really no consensus in the medical or dental world as to what causes people to grind their teeth. This is probably because a range of factors can contribute to this condition. Some of these are listed below:

  • Sleep apnea (a sleep disorder)
  • Teeth that are misaligned, or a jaw that doesn't align properly
  • Side effect of prescribed medications like antipsychotics
  • Side effect of illicit drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine
  • Pinched nerves in the head, neck, or spine
  • Lack of calcium and/or magnesium in the diet, which help relax muscle spasms
  • TMJ (jaw joint) issues causing teeth grinding, which in turn causes TMJ problems
  • Ongoing stress

How Do You Stop Grinding?

  • Don't chew gum or on anything like pens or pencils. This will strengthen the muscles that contribute to teeth grinding
  • Learn to relax your jaw muscles throughout the day. Make a conscious effort
  • Use a nightguard at night. Some people love them and some people hate them, but they're worth trying out to see if they work for you or not
  • Place a warm/moist towel on your jaw joint before bed. This will help relax the muscles
  • Eat enough calcium and magnesium. A lack of these minerals will cause the jaw to clench
  • Avoid an inflammatory diet (meat, dairy, sugar, gluten, and anything you're sensitive or allergic to)
  • Don't use caffeine or illicit stimulant drugs before bedtime
  • Go to a chiropractor to free pinched nerves in your head, neck, and spine
  • Go to a dentist who specializes in TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues

Read The Full Article

This hub has been shortened and modified for convenience and context. A full version of the article I wrote on this subject is available. For a more comprehensive version and for more information on this topic, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Faceless39. All rights reserved.



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Comments 8 comments

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 15 months ago from Home Sweet Home

I thought grinding teeth was a habit


Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 15 months ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Peachpurple, it certainly can be a habit (generally in the daytime), but here I'm talking about chronic teeth grinding, which is not habit-related. Most people who chronically grind their teeth are asleep when they do it, and it's caused by muscle spasms and/or pinched nerves in their head or neck. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment! :)


ecogranny profile image

ecogranny 15 months ago from San Francisco

Interesting article. I would like more depth on the "how to stop" portion of the article, which left me with lots of questions, but at least I have a starting point now. The diagrams, photos, and explanation of what causes tooth grinding are most helpful. Thank you.


Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 15 months ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Hi Ecogranny, you might have missed the section titled "read the full article," which is the full in-depth article. Thanks for your input and comments! :)


parrster profile image

parrster 14 months ago from Oz

Suffered migraines for decades until discovering I clenched my teeth at night. I now wear a small guard that prevents my molars coming into contact with each other. I've also found magnesium taken just before bed is a great relaxant. I have quite noticeable abfractions along my lower right molars, which I'm hoping will come right. Thanks for the informative and well written article.


Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 14 months ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Parrster, I'm surprised that your hygienist or dentist didn't mention the abfractions to you and discuss your teeth grinding over the decades. But I'm glad you finally discovered the source of your migraines and found a night guard that works for you. Thanks for the wonderful comment, I appreciate it! :)


MeredithCummings profile image

MeredithCummings 14 months ago from MA

Thank you for posting! I have been suffering for the last couple of month and my front chipped teeth illustrate the picture and chipping you presented. I have found great relief using a mouth guard, even during the day.


Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 14 months ago from The North Woods, USA Author

MeredithCummings, thanks for reading and for your nice comment. I'm so happy you've found some relief by using a nightguard / mouth guard! :)

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