If you’re suffering from persistent jaw pain, soreness, and headaches, teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) may be the cause. This is a common issue that affects many people. Fortunately, there are a range of treatments for bruxism that are quite effective at alleviating symptoms. Here’s an overview of the most common treatments for teeth grinding.
Mouthguards are one of the most popular treatments for teeth grinding. They are minimally invasive, easy to use, and can sometimes be obtained over the counter. Mouthguards for teeth grinding are commonly known as “night guards” because you wear them at night as you are sleeping. Night guards form a barrier between your teeth that prevents the tension and surface wear that comes from teeth grinding.
There are three main types of mouthguards:
- One-size-fits-all nightguards – these can be obtained from most drugstores. They are fairly inexpensive, since they come in limited sizes and are not customized to your mouth. However, the protection they offer is minimal. They can also be uncomfortable, since they are not tailored to your specific mouth shape.
- Customized nightguards – this type of nightguard is custom-fitted to your mouth. These can also be obtained from your local drugstore, but they have a special process to fit them to your teeth. Often called “boil and bite” mouthguards, this type of mouthguard is first heated in water, then inserted in the mouth. The nightguard material becomes pliable in heat, so it molds around the contours of your mouth. Once it cools, it hardens a bit to retain the customized shape. This type of nightguard tends to be a little more comfortable, since it is formed to fit your mouth exactly. However, the protection offered is still minimal – it’s only a good option for light-to-moderate cases of teeth grinding.
- Dentist-made night guards – For more severe cases of bruxism, a nightguard custom-made by your dentist is recommended. In this process, your dentist will take impressions of your mouth, and create a durable nightguard that is custom-fitted to you. Getting a nightguard from a dentist is more expensive, but it results in a better-fitting and more durable mouth guard.
In severe cases of bruxism, or in cases where the teeth have sustained significant damage, dental intervention is necessary. Your dentist may need to reshape your teeth and repair damage in order to align your teeth so that they don’t grind as much. Your dentist may repair the surfaces of your teeth or use crowns to create a less abrasive alignment of your teeth.
Stress and anxiety are common causes of teeth grinding. If this is a root cause of bruxism, then improving your mental health could also have benefits for your dental health. Mental health treatments like therapy, meditation, and anxiety management can have benefits that improve your teeth grinding as well as many other problems in your life.
Behavioral change is also a mental health approach to solving bruxism. Your dentist can help you determine if your teeth grinding is related to specific habits or your jaw position. Once you become aware of these factors, you can actively work to change your behavior and mitigate your teeth grinding.
There are also pharmaceutical treatments for teeth grinding. Two of the most common treatments of this type are muscle relaxants and Botox injections.
In severe cases of bruxism, your dentist may prescribe a muscle relaxant to be taken before bedtime. This prevents your jaw muscles from tensing while you sleep, resulting in teeth grinding.
Botox injections can also affect the jaw muscles and lessen grinding activity. It’s used as an alternative solution for patients who don’t respond to other bruxism treatments.
Teeth grinding is a troublesome issue, and fortunately there are a lot of options for treatment. In most cases, multiple treatments can be used in conjunction for a positive outcome. For example, a combined treatment of a dentist-made mouthguard, stress management therapy, and some dental work to repair tooth damage might result in a better patient outcome than if only one type of treatment was tried. Ask your dentist about treatment options for bruxism, and they’ll be able to recommend a treatment plan that works for you.