Do you ever wake up with a sore jaw, headache, or even chipped teeth? You might be experiencing bruxism, a condition characterised by teeth grinding and clenching. This common issue affects millions worldwide, but many are unaware that they have it.
In this post, we'll discuss the causes and symptoms of bruxism. Then we'll explore a variety of home remedies to stop grinding teeth, lifestyle changes, and dental treatments that can help you to treat bruxism at home. A lot of what we'll be discussing can improve your overall health and wellness to boot!
- Bruxism symptoms include teeth grinding during sleep, jaw discomfort, headaches, and eroded teeth.
- Home remedies such as bite guards or splints, jaw muscle exercises & massages, and stress management techniques can help to alleviate the symptoms of bruxism and protect your teeth.
- Lifestyle changes such as eating magnesium-rich foods, regular exercise, reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, and good sleep hygiene habits can address the underlying causes.
- Mild bruxism may not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism can be severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, fractured teeth, and other problems. Furthermore, bruxism can result in the wearing down of your teeth, which can lead to sensitivity and decay.
Causes of Sleep Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Bruxism is a condition where someone grinds, gnashes, or clenches their teeth. This can occur while awake (awake bruxism) or asleep (sleep bruxism). The leading cause of teeth grinding is stress and anxiety. Stress can affect the nervous system and result in involuntary teeth grinding.
Sleep bruxism (also known as nocturnal bruxism) is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. People who clench or grind their teeth during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea. [citation]
Misaligned teeth (or malocclusion) can also lead to teeth grinding, as the discrepancies between the lower and upper jaw result in increased pressure on teeth when they come into contact.
Certain medications - such as antidepressants and stimulants - have also been linked to teeth grinding. Other factors that can exacerbate bruxism include excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and high caffeine intake. In some cases, vitamin deficiencies - particularly vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium - have been associated with teeth grinding.
Common Symptoms of Bruxism
- Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner.
- Increased tooth sensitivity.
- Soreness or tightness in the facial muscles.
- Sore or aching jaw muscles.
- Pain that feels like an earache, although it's actually not a problem with your ear.
- Dull headache starting in the temples.
- Sleep disruption.
- Disrupted sleep for a sleeping partner due to the noise of the teeth grinding.
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.
- Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped, or loose.
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth.
Recognising these symptoms early on and taking action can prevent further damage and help you find relief.
Bruxism may not always cause symptoms or complications. However, severe bruxism may lead to jaw disorders and damaged teeth. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's best to consult with a dentist or healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment options.
Alternative Therapies for Teeth Grinding
Thankfully, there are several remedies that can ease the symptoms of bruxism so you can stop grinding your teeth. Incorporate these remedies into your daily routine, and you might find relief and protect your teeth from further damage.
Stress Reduction Techniques
Managing stress is critical in reducing teeth clenching, as stress and anxiety is often the primary cause of bruxism. The next time you notice you're more stressed than usual, try some of these techniques:
Mindfulness meditation is a way to help you focus on the present moment. It's like a calm spot in the middle of a stormy day. It doesn't ask you to stop your thoughts. Instead, it invites you to notice them without judgement, just like watching waves rise and fall on the beach.
By paying attention to your breath, you learn to quiet the noise and distraction around you. This helps you discover a peaceful space in your mind. Mindfulness meditation can sharpen your focus, make you more patient, and help you understand others better. But more importantly for bruxism sufferers it can significantly reduce the cortisol levels in your body caused by stress. There are many apps such as Headspace and videos on Youtube that will guide you through mindfulness meditation. Like this one:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This technique involves tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in the body. It can help you become more aware of physical sensations and achieve a state of deeper relaxation.
Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help slow your heart rate and alleviate stress. It's something you can do anytime you feel stress starting to build. Breathe in through your nose, imagining your breathing deep into your belly until it's full and then releasing the air out through your mouth. Repeat for 3-5 minutes or as long as you need.
Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to reduce stress and promote relaxation. If you had to choose something that combines as many elements of stress reduction into one activity you can do from home, this would be it.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of psychological treatment that can help you manage stress by changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It might be particularly useful if your bruxism is linked to anxiety or stress. There are many books and courses about CBT if you want to be able to do it by yourself, but if this is an area you really struggle in, a therapist might be the way to go.
Guided Imagery Visualisation
This technique involves visualizing peaceful images or situations to promote relaxation. It can be done with the help of a therapist or through self-guided methods using books or apps.
It's best to build some of these techniques into your evening and morning routines. The very beginning of the morning and end of the evening are the 2 times of the day you have control over so that you're more likely to have success with these techniques.
At the same time however, you want to try and be mindful of your stress levels throughout the day. If you notice you're clenching your teeth or showing other signs of stress, take 5 minutes to do some deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation as you can do this anywhere.
Jaw Muscle Exercises and Massage
There are exercises and massages can help relieve the muscle tension that often leads to teeth grinding and even spasming jaw muscles. One effective exercise involves placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and sliding it back, helping to relax the jaw muscles.
Another technique involves massaging your jaw using your fingers, applying gentle pressure in a circular motion. These exercises and massages can be performed daily, preferably before bed, to help alleviate teeth grinding during sleep.
Here's a great video showing different self-massage techniques on the jaw and surrounding areas:
In conjunction with jaw muscle exercises, applying a warm compress to the jaw area can also help relax the muscles. Simply soak a cloth in warm water, wring out the excess water, and place it on your jaw for 10-15 minutes before bedtime.
Making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the severity of the condition. Here are some recommendations:
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine, especially when consumed in large quantities or close to bedtime, can exacerbate bruxism. Try to minimise your intake of these substances, particularly in the evening. Caffeine for example has a half-life of up to 6 hours. This means that 50% of the caffeine consumed is still active in your body 6 hours later, so make sure you're last coffee or energy drink is consumed at least 6 hours before your intended sleep time.
If you smoke, consider seeking help to quit, as nicotine can interfere with the sleep cycle and exacerbate sleep bruxism.
Avoid Chewing Non-Food Items
Chewing gum or other non-food items can condition your jaw muscles to clench, increasing the likelihood of bruxism.
Maintain a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Some preliminary studies suggest a link between magnesium deficiency and bruxism, so incorporating foods high in magnesium, such as nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables, might be beneficial. More about this later in this guide.
Regular physical activity can help reduce anxiety, improve mood, and the quality of your sleep - all things which can help with bruxism. Exercise could be anything from a brisk walk to more vigorous activities like running or cycling or calisthenics.
As long as you're moving more intensely than a lazy stroll, it's going to be good for your body and stress levels. Aim for at least 20 minutes of physical activity in a single session where you're getting your heart rate up for their to be noticeable results.
There are a plethora of apps, programs, and creators on your favourite social media platform with varied workout routines for everyone at every level. Choose an exercise routine that challenges you but isn't too difficult and is enjoyable enough that you're likely to stick with it.
Be Mindful of Teeth Placement
Being aware of your teeth placement throughout the day can reduce the likelihood that you're unconsciously grinding your teeth.
Here are 3 simple methods to help you achieve this:
Maintain a slight gap: Keep your upper and lower teeth slightly apart when your mouth's closed. This'll help prevent unnecessary grinding or clenching.
Being mindful of tongue positioning: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper front teeth. This'll help relax your jaw muscles and prevent grinding.
Be conscious of your jaw: Throughout the day, take short breaks to check-in with your jaw, ensuring that it's relaxed and not clenched. If you find it challenging to remember, set a timer or use a reminder app on your phone.
Home Remedies for Bruxism
Herbal Teas for Relaxation
Herbal teas, such as chamomile, lavender, and passionflower, are known for their calming effects on the body, helping the nervous system relax. Drink herbal tea before bedtime to reduce stress and anxiety, to promote relaxation and improved sleep quality. Just make sure that herbal tea is caffeine-free!
Also consider incorporating herbal teas and essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile, into your relaxation routine. Similar to herbal tea, these oils are famous for their calming effects and can further reduce stress and anxiety.
Valerian root is an ancient remedy that has been used as a sedative for centuries. It is thought to be a potential cure for insomnia, anxiety and restlessness. More recently, research has indicated that it can be effective in improving sleep quality without side effects.
Nutrition and Supplements for Bruxism
A well-balanced diet and proper supplementation can also play a crucial role in managing bruxism. Poor nutrition has a multitude of negative affects on your body, one of those being compromised muscle function.
Have you ever awoken to painful cramps in your legs? It could have been caused by a magnesium deficiency. This same deficiency can also make it more likely that your jaws clench and spasm while you sleep.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in muscle and heart health, as well as the relaxation of muscle tissue and blood vessels.
To ensure adequate magnesium intake, incorporate magnesium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dark chocolate into your diet.
Vitamin C and Other Essential Nutrients
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is absolutely essential for the adrenal glands to function properly, which plays a role in managing stress levels. Ensure adequate intake of vitamin C by eating fruits like oranges, strawberries, and kiwi, as well as vegetables like bell peppers and broccoli.
Calcium: Without enough calcium, muscles will struggle to relax. The best source of dietary calcium is greens, followed by veggies, nuts and seeds, and fruit. Despite common belief, milk, while a source of calcium, can lead to mucus production in the digestive system, which can impede calcium absorption.
Vitamin D: But calcium can’t be absorbed without vitamin D. With proper vitamin D levels, the body will absorb plenty of calcium from a plant rich diet. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Getting outside for a walk first-thing in the morning is also a fantastic activity for reducing stress and calibrating your circadian rhythm for more reliable sleep - all things that help with bruxism!
Sleep Hygiene and Bruxism
Sleep hygiene refers to habits and practices that promote sound sleep on a regular basis. Good sleep hygiene can help you fall asleep faster, in a more relaxed state, and improve sleep quality. It can also help prevent sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea. This can have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing, and of course also your bruxism. Here's how to implement sleep hygiene into your daily routine.
Establishing a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
A relaxing bedtime routine can signal to your body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Putting your body in this relaxed state, promotes sound sleep, and also reducing the likelihood of teeth grinding during the night. Consider incorporating activities like taking a warm bath, reading, journaling, or meditating into your routine. Additionally, gentle stretches or yoga, and listening to calming music can help relax your body and mind before sleep.
It should go without saying that you should not be taking stimulants before bed like coffee or other caffeinated beverages. But it's also important to avoid stimulating activities before bed. Activities such as watching TV or using electronic devices can interfere with your body's ability to fall asleep.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help regulate your body's internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.
Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment
If sleep is a struggle for you, another area to examine is your sleep environment. This can have a huge impact on how quickly you fall asleep and the quality of your sleep through the night. Ensure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark, with good quality bedding and a supportive mattress. Consider using blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block out light and reduce disturbances.
Using a white noise machine or earplugs can help block out external noise and create a more peaceful environment for sleep. Every little bit helps and quality sleep is worth investing in!
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman has recorded many podcast episodes giving science-backed advice for improving sleep, with this one being one of his best:
Dental Treatments and Appliances
Bite Guards or Splints
A bite guard - also known as a dental splint or occlusal splint - is a device used to treat conditions like bruxism, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), or certain sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
They are typically made of hard or soft plastic and made to fit over your upper or lower teeth. They create a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth to reduce grinding and clenching, which can protect your teeth from damage and ease strain on the jaw muscles.
Custom Bite Guards
Custom bite guards are especially crafted to fit the contours of your mouth and teeth. They are made from a soft material that ensures comfort when worn.
To obtain a custom bite guard, consult your dentist or orthodontist, who will take an impression of your teeth and create a mold for the night guard.
Orthodontic treatments, such as braces or other dental appliances, can help correct misaligned teeth and jaws, which can contribute to bruxism. By realigning crooked teeth and the jaw, these treatments can ease or even eliminate teeth grinding, providing relief from bruxism symptoms and protecting your overall oral health.
Happy Sleep Bruxism Nightguard Splint
While custom dental nightguards have their benefits, they can be quite expensive and may not be the most convenient option for treating bruxism at home. Fortunately, there's a more affordable and effective alternative: the Happy Sleep Bruxism Night Guard Splint.
Designed by sleep medicine expert A/Prof. Dr. Jack Gerschman and his team, this innovative device is backed by clinical trials and over 35 years of industry experience. Made in Australia with soft, medically-used materials for maximum comfort, the Happy Sleep Night Guard Splint promotes nasal breathing and clear respiratory flow while providing a protective barrier against teeth grinding.
The flexible jaw support flap holds the jaw together, preventing the lower jaw from dropping during sleep, and keeping the device securely in place. This nightguard splint is not only highly effective in reducing the harmful effects of sleep bruxism, but can also help with jaw and teeth pain, headaches, and dental problems caused by teeth grinding.
Plus, it's much cheaper than a custom dental nightguard and available for purchase online. Incorporating the Happy Sleep Bruxism Night Guard Splint into your nightly routine is a simple and efficient way to manage bruxism at home.
Try the Happy Sleep bruxism anti-teeth grinding splint today.
Signs That It's Time to See a Professional
While occasional teeth grinding might not require professional intervention, you should seek help if you notice significant wear or damage to your teeth, experience persistent pain in your jaw or face, or if your sleep quality is being adversely affected. A dental professional can provide a thorough examination and suggest suitable treatment options.
Early intervention can help prevent further damage and provide relief from bruxism symptoms.