Sleep bruxism – the medical term for clenching and gnashing your teeth during the night – can lead to health problems if left unchecked. Here's how to stop it.
Step 1: Know the signs Know the signs of sleep bruxism: Worn down, loose, or sensitive teeth; waking up with a headache or sore jaw; tongue indentations; and chewed-up patches on the inside of your cheeks. If you notice these, see your dentist. An abnormal bite and crooked teeth are sometimes the problems.
TIP: Bed partners are often the first to notice their companion's teeth grinding.
Step 2: Consider other sleep problems Consider other sleep problems, like loud snoring interrupted by pauses that are followed by gasping for breath or choking. These are signs of a condition called sleep apnea, and many sufferers also grind their teeth. See a doctor if these symptoms apply to you.
Step 3: Reduce stress If you – like many sufferers – believe your nocturnal gnashing is due to stress, take steps to reduce it: Work out more, meditate, or learn some deep breathing exercises.
Step 4: Watch your drinking Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake. Too much of either has been linked to teeth grinding.
TIP: If you smoke, try to quit; smoking may increase your risk of developing sleep bruxism.
Step 5: Get a mouth guard Try wearing a mouth guard at night. It won't prevent grinding, but it will protect your teeth. Find them at drug stores and sporting goods stores. For a more comfortable fit, ask your dentist to customize one for you.
Step 6: Sleep on your side Sleep on your stomach or your side. Back sleeping may contribute to grinding. Sweet dreams!
FACT: Approximately 8 percent of U.S. adults grind their teeth at night.