Me? A teeth grinder? No way! Or that was what I thought until three days ago. Over breakfast, my boyfriend lamented how he was kept awake all night by my teeth grinding!
I was horrified! I never saw myself as a stressed out sort of gal, certainly not the sort of person you would associate with teeth-grinding. Furthermore, I have always coveted the slim facial shape of the popular Korean actresses so much so that I have judiciously stayed off chewing gum and cuttlefish for fear that munching on such chewy foods will lead my jaw muscles to grow bigger with time.
I decided to pay my dentist a little visit to find out how I can put this problem to a ‘grinding’ stop. My first question was: if I am a teeth-grinder, how come I don’t know about it? Shouldn’t I be grinding in the day as well? Apparently not. Grinding often occurs during sleep, hence most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw is a telltale symptom of bruxism. Many times people, like myself learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night. Others merely notice their faces become squarer or look more masculine with time. In fact some studies put the figure of people teeth grinding at as high as 25%, that is one in four people!
If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.
Why Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?
According to my dentist, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear their teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed.
Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws, result in hearing loss, and even change the appearance of your face! For me, having a squarish face is my worst nightmare; this led me to my next question; What can I do about this?
What Can I Do to Stop Grinding My Teeth?
Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep. However, this has its pros and cons, a mouth guard requires compliance and may not necessarily reduce the size of your jaws, but protect your teeth from being ground down.
Mouth guard for teeth grinders
If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, treat the root cause of your stress. Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist, or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered.
Other tips to help you stop teeth grinding include:
- Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, and coffee.
- Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
- Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.
Botox for teeth grinding
It has been three days and I have cut down on nightly glass of red wine, meditated for 10 minutes and tried not to fume at my boss before bed but my boyfriend still says he can hear me grind my teeth at night. I plan to try the tips above for another 2 weeks before I take more drastic measures to curb this issue once and for all.
I was told that Botox injections when administered into the jaw muscles is a painless procedure and can reduce the size of the grinding muscles. What this means for me is that not only will I stop grinding at night, my face will slim down as my jaw muscles atrophy (get smaller)! Double Yippee for me.
The only thing holding me back is the cost of this procedure; Botox costs a couple of hundreds for a proper treatment. But with the possibility of a teeth-grinding cure plus facial slimming therapy combined into one simple procedure, I must admit this may just be something worth saving my pennies for. Till then, watch this space!