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How to stop teeth grinding

How to stop teeth grinding

Teeth grinding is a painful condition that over time can damage your dental health. From mouth guards to Botox, we explore your treatment options

Teeth grinding is a big problem. Up to 50 per cent of people in the UK suffer from bruxism, a condition that means they involuntarily grind and clench their teeth and jaw.

The consequences are painful and can include flattening, chipping, and fracturing teeth. Tooth enamel can wear away, causing pain and sensitivity. Jaw muscles can be painful, and in extreme cases lock, preventing the jaw from opening completely.

Sufferers may also experience pain in the face and neck, headaches, and disrupted sleep.

What causes teeth grinding

The cause of the condition is not fully understood, though studies show that 70 per cent of cases are likely to be the result of stress.

Other causes include side effects of medications and conditions such as reflux, epilepsy, sleep apnoea and ADHD.

"70 per cent of cases are likely to be the result of stress"

Katie Perkins is a dentist and CEO of Habox, a dental subscription service. She explains that our upper and lower teeth shouldn’t naturally have much contact.

“Teeth should only touch each other for two-three minutes a day, each time you bite down when chewing," she says. "For the rest of the time they are apart.”

Often sufferers grind their teeth in their sleep, making prevention tricky. In fact bruxism is the third most common sleep disorder, following insomnia and snoring.

Does wearing a mouth guard for teeth grinding work?

A dentist wearing a rubber glove holds up a mouth guard Wearing a mouth guard at night can help prevent you from grinding your teeth while you sleep

Often people suffer for years before treatment, at which point they generally approach their dentist first.

Katie explains her approach. “Treatment depends entirely on each case. Usually a combination of treatments is required," she says.

"Non-surgical management such as physiotherapy and relaxation techniques can be helpful, as can therapies like acupuncture. Pharmacological management includes pain relief, muscle relaxants and Botox.

“Splints and mouth guards work well in some cases. These are constructed by a dentist and worn at night. They’re designed to place the jaw in the most relaxed position to prevent clenching. Surgical management is rare and usually done when there is deterioration of the joint.”

Many people find mouth guards uncomfortable. They neither taste nor smell pleasant, and although your partner may find it preferable to you grinding your teeth, they’re definitely not sexy. So it’s not surprising that people search for alternative treatments.

Botox for grinding teeth

Dr Manav Bawa, a GP, aesthetic doctor, and member of the Royal College of Surgeons treats bruxism patients with botulinum toxin, or Botox

“In bruxism, the masseter muscle becomes bigger and stronger, which can make symptoms worse," he explains.

"I use Botox to relax this muscle, which reduces and relieves symptoms, as it can no longer contract with the same strength. With regular treatments, the muscle will remain weaker, providing continued relief.”

"In bruxism, the masseter muscle becomes bigger and stronger, which can make symptoms worse"

Andrianna suffered from intense teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Her case was so bad that she had worn away the enamel on her back teeth.

“Most mornings I would wake up with my jaw aching,” she says.

Her dentist fitted a mouthguard, and although it stopped any further damage to her teeth, she found it uncomfortable, and her jaw still ached. She was treated with Botox by Dr Bawa and is pleased with the results.

“I noticed a difference around a week and half after my first treatment. It’s made such a difference to my life.”

Alternative treatments for teeth grinding

Woman massaging her own jaw against pink backgroundMassaging your jaw may help relieve tension in the area and reduce your teeth grinding

Geraldine Joaquim is a clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist who uses hypnotherapy to treat bruxism. 

“A big part of my therapy is helping my clients understand how stress develops and how it creates symptoms such as teeth grinding," she says.

"I use methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), plus hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a relaxed state that mimics the REM stage of sleep. It’s during this time that new habits can be reinforced.

“Other than the initial consultation, I don’t focus on the symptoms because we’re dealing with the root cause—as stress is reduced, so are symptoms.”

Natalie Quail is CEO of oral cosmetics and teeth whitening brand SmileTime. Two years ago she was troubled by tinnitus.

"A masseur taught me about lymphatic drainage, and I adapted her technique to focus on massaging under my jaw"

“After a long year of COVID-related anxiety and a busy workload I started to struggle to sleep," she says. "This was accompanied by a ringing in my ears and increasing jaw stiffness.” 

After visiting an ear specialist, followed by a dentist, Natalie discovered that the cause was bruxism.

“I had bad jaw and neck swelling, so I started to research how I could alleviate it. A masseur taught me about lymphatic drainage, and I adapted her technique to focus on massaging under my jaw in an upwards and then downwards motion.

“The massage helps to alleviate tension in my jaw. I would massage my face three times a day and for a 15-20 minute period before bed. I saw the inflammation reduce over a month period and it relaxed my jaw before bedtime when my bruxism is usually worst.”

Getting treatment early is vital to avoid long term damage to your teeth. So if you’re grinding your teeth don’t ignore it—talk to your dentist or GP for advice.

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