Do you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw? Does your partner hear nighttime grinding noises from your side of the bed? You may need to learn how to stop clenching teeth at night. This common habit is the cause of several serious dental conditions, so it's worth your time to learn how to fix it.
Do I Have a Problem with Clenching?
Dentists have a name for the grinding and clenching of teeth. It's called bruxism. If you do it at night, it's called sleep bruxism. Many times, dentists notice the condition because when it becomes severe enough, it can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth.
So how can you tell if clenching teeth at night is going to cause dental problems for you? Look for these symptoms:
- Morning headaches
- Sore jaw or facial muscles
- Chipped or cracked teeth
- Sensitive or loose teeth
- Impressions or indentations on your tongue
If you see any of these symptoms, check in with your dentist to evaluate the possible causes. If not addressed, bruxism can cause damage to the tooth enamel or chipped or broken teeth. You can also take proactive steps to prevent the nighttime grinding.
How to Stop Clenching Your Teeth
Most clenching and grinding is caused by emotional stress or anxiety. To stop bruxism from occurring, you should start by addressing any stressful situations in your life. Then, take these steps to relax before bed:
- Let go of negative thoughts: Keep a notepad by your bed. If you feel anxiety before bedtime, take five minutes to write down your feelings then put down the pen and retire for the night. This process may help calm the negative recurring thoughts that could be the cause of nighttime clenching.
- Practice mindful awareness: As you close your eyes to drift off to sleep, become aware of the tension in your jaw. Sometimes just the motion of putting your head on the pillow signals the jaw to start clenching. Consciously loosen and relax the muscles in your jaw and your face. If you wake during the night, repeat the relaxation process.
- Ask your partner for help: If your bed mate hears you grinding at night, ask him to give you a nudge. When you wake, repeat the mindful awareness exercise before you go back to sleep.
- Consider a mouthguard: If you still need help to learn how to stop clenching teeth at night, talk to your dentist about getting a mouthguard. You can purchase a mouthguard at many local drugstores or your dentist may recommend that you have one custom made.