If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The same is true of teeth grinders: if you grind your teeth and no one is there to hear, then what does it matter? The answer, of course, is that it does matter, for your health and well-being, as well that of your sleep-deprived loved ones who have to listen to the jackhammer in the next room.
Bruxism – grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep – can result in headaches; tooth and jaw pain; loose or cracked teeth; and damage and wear to the tooth and enamel. Not to mention, restless nights that translates to exhaustion during the day. If you live with others, they are sure to tell you that you are a grinder. If live alone, you may not realize you are grinding your teeth until a doctor puts two and two together (such as headaches and cracked teeth).
While it may be difficult to undue the many stressors that can contribute to bruxism, here are six ways to protect your teeth from grinding.
1. Night guards. Probably the most common way to eliminate bruxism is to wear a night guard while sleeping. Similar to the clear, removable type of braces like Invisalign®, night guards are fitted to your teeth and prevent friction or grinding.
2. Chill out. Calming influences before bedtime may eliminate the stressors that make us grind or clench or teeth and jaw. Because bruxism can be brought on by stress, try turning off the 11 p.m. news and turning on some calming music. Or draw a lavender or Epsom soak before bed, enjoy some chamomile tea, or read a book to put you in relaxed state before turning off the light.
3. Talk it out. Our stress often manifests itself through physical means, so why not try to nip the stress at the bud? Therapy provides an outlet to identify, discuss, and resolve issues that can build up over time.
4. Focus on sleep hygiene. According to the National Institutes of Health, avoiding smoking, coffee/caffeine, and alcohol before bed (or at all) can calm your very stimulated brain. Other ways to ensure sleep hygiene is to turn off the TV, create a soothing silence or white noise.
5. Dr. Popeye, DDS. Popeye might have known best! Consuming spinach and other leafy vegetables that are high in magnesium have been shown to be effective in preventing bruxism, but remember, symptoms can return if you stop, so magnesium-rich foods or supplements should remain part of your daily routine.
6. Medical side effects. Certain medications, especially antidepressants, antipsychotics, and amphetamines, can cause one to grind their teeth. If you believe this could be the case, notify your doctor immediately.
7. Could it be an ear infection? The answer is, yes! Ear, nose, throat, jaw, are all connected. When we have an ear infection, we may grind or clench our teeth to try to relieve the inner ear and sinus pressure that is looking for relief.
On rare occasions, bruxism may be a result of neurological disorders or a sign of an underlying disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. If you have reason to believe that you – or your loved one –might be a teeth grinder, or you simply want to maintain a healthy smile, plan on visiting your dentist as soon as possible. If you live in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, Dr. Steven Hagerman is a trusted local option for your entire family’s dental care needs. Dr. Hagerman is a featured provider on Angie’s List and a “Top Dentist” as recognized by Minneapolis / St. Paul Magazine, so you know you’re in good hands. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hagerman for you or your family, call (651) 646-2392 or use our convenient online appointment request form.