Clenching Can Damage Your Teeth

How To Stop Clenching Your Teeth

Do you clench or grind your teeth? You may think it’s no big deal, but the condition, called bruxism, can cause headaches, damaged teeth -- and worse.  (This happens both at night while sleeping and during the day, but night time bruxism tends to be more serious because it goes on for a longer period of time.) When you grind your teeth, you also wear away tooth enamel. This can lead to ultra-sensitive teeth and tooth decay, and it can also cause damage to expensive dental work. Plus, grinding taxes the muscles and joints of the jaw. In fact, prolonged grinding may damage the jaw joint enough to cause osteoarthritis as well as bone loss and periodontal (gum) disease.

That’s a lot of bad news, but there are effective ways to help you stop the grind.

Teeth-grinding is believed to be hereditary but it’s also related to gender: Three times as many women as men grind their teeth. And ironically, if you grind your teeth regularly, you may do less damage than if you grind intermittently. Although the regular grinder wears down her teeth, muscles get stronger from the habit.

If you’re a grinder, you probably know it.  You may wake up with a stiff or tired jaw, or your partner hears you doing it during the night. To ease the grind, try these tips:

•    Take it easy. The majority of people who grind their teeth do it because they’re stressed to the max. You might be able to eliminate your grinding habit with relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga or other slow stretching exercises.    •    Visit your dentist. A dental expert can give you a mouth guard to help prevent you from grinding your teeth. These can be expensive, but they’re especially effective to use while sleeping. Guards need to be custom made to fit your mouth. If you have dental coverage, your insurance might pay for it. •    Speak with your dentist about the cause: Besides stress, teeth grinding is sometimes the result of teeth issues.  Your dentist may suggest replacing crowns or correcting teeth that aren’t aligned. Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.
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