Treating teeth grinding
Recommended treatments for bruxism (teeth grinding) include behavioural therapies and using mouth guards or mouth splints.
Other treatments, such as muscle relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene measures, may also help you manage your symptoms.
Mouth guards and mouth splints
If you grind your teeth while you're asleep, you may need to wear a mouth guard or mouth splint at night.
These even out the pressure across your jaw and create a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth to protect them from further damage. They can also reduce any grinding noises you make at night.
Mouth guards are similar in appearance to those used in sports such as boxing. They're usually made out of bendy rubber or plastic and can be made by your dentist to fit your mouth. You'll usually have to pay for this type of custom-made dental appliance.
Mouth guards are also available to buy from your local pharmacist. However, it's unlikely to fit as well as one made by your dentist.
A mouth splint (also known as an occlusal splint or bite plate) is made from harder plastic and fits precisely over your upper or lower teeth.
Mouth splints are no more effective than mouth guards in reducing the symptoms of bruxism. They tend to last for years, whereas mouth guards usually last for less than a year. However, mouth splints are more expensive.
Although mouth guards and splints may help reduce muscle activity in your jaw at night, they're only able to control the condition, not cure it.
Treating the underlying cause
Psychological treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can be used to treat any underlying psychological problems, such as stress and anxiety, that may be causing you to grind your teeth.
CBT aims to help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and how you act. A specially trained therapist will encourage you to talk about how you think about yourself, the world and other people, and how your actions affect your thoughts and feelings.
If your bruxism is stress related, it's important that you try to relax and get a good night's sleep. There are a number of things you can do to help you wind down before you go to bed. These include:
- deep breathing
- having a bath
- listening to music
Different things will work for different people. Your GP will also be able to recommend some additional stress management techniques.
Breaking the habit
Habit-reversal techniques are designed to break your teeth grinding habit. However, there's no scientific evidence to suggest that using habit-reversal techniques will cure bruxism.
If you grind your teeth while you're awake, it might be useful to record how often you grind your teeth each day. You can then work out when you're more likely to do it and why – for example, when you're concentrating or stressed.
Being more aware of your habit will make it easier to break. To break the habit, you could train yourself to relax your jaw when you feel yourself grinding or clenching. For example, you could open your jaw slightly or gently place your tongue between your upper and lower teeth.
Habit-reversal techniques may be used by a specially trained therapist, or you can try them yourself using a computer programme or self-help book. Your GP will be able to advise you.
Treating and preventing dental problems
It's important that you have regular dental check-ups and that any problems caused by your teeth grinding are treated as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
For example, if your grinding leads to a cracked tooth and is left untreated, the nerve in your tooth could die and a dental abscess might develop. As a result, you may need to have root canal treatment.
In severe cases, your tooth could actually split in two. If this happens, your dentist won't be able to save the tooth and it will need to be taken out.
Dental problems, such as misaligned, cracked, crooked or missing teeth, can usually be treated with reconstructive dental treatments, such as false teeth, overlays and crowns.
These treatments can sometimes reshape the chewing surface of your teeth and stop you grinding. You'll usually have to pay for this type of dental treatment and it can often be expensive.
Find and choose a dentist.
Medication isn't usually used to treat bruxism. But non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may help relieve any pain or inflammation you have around your jaw as a result of grinding your teeth.
In some cases, your GP may suggest taking a muscle relaxant before you go to bed to help relieve your symptoms.
If you develop bruxism as a side effect of taking antidepressant medication, your GP may suggest changing your medication. But you should never stop taking medication that's been prescribed for you without consulting your GP first.
To help prevent bruxism, you should:
- have regular dental check-ups
- be aware of how stress and anxiety affect you and find relaxation techniques that work for you
- cut back on your alcohol consumption as it can make sleep bruxism worse
- give up smoking (if you smoke)
- avoid using recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine
- avoid chewing pens, pencils and other non-food items
- be aware of when you grind your teeth (if you do it while awake) and try to break the habit by relaxing your jaw muscles
How often you need a dental check-up, and what to expect when you visit your dentist
Page last reviewed: 05/09/2014
Next review due: 05/09/2016