Too many folks don’t recognize just how terrible enamel-grinding can be on the overall health of their mouths. As soon as you’ve started this terrible habit, it can go on for many months and years in which the enamel is damaged so badly that it becomes loose, and sometimes it even falls out.

So what does it take to kick the habit of tooth grinding and clenching? As you might suspect, the answer is different for different people. The “solution” that most dentists currently recommend is a custom-made mouth guard. Many people take their dentist’s recommendation and invest $500-1100 for a custom piece. Once you have paid for yours, you get to find out if you are someone who’s nighttime clenching gets worse or better when you wear a mouth guard.

“Wait a minute,” you might say, “Why would my clenching get WORSE with a mouth guard?” Unfortunately, the problem with mouth guards is that while they obviously protect your teeth, they don’t necessarily make you bite less. For some, mouth guards are experienced as more of an annoyance or obstruction to be chewed through while sleeping rather than a signal for the body to relax.

One therapy for tooth grinding that’s been proven to be effective is called biofeedback. This includes a unique device best suited to your personal situation, habit, and mouth. The device is attached to your mouth with a sensor that sounds an alarm whenever you grind your teeth. By waking you up each time you grind your enamel, your body eventually learns to stop. Biofeedback is known to be less invasive than a mouth guard, but in order to work, you do have to be willing to have your sleep interrupted until the habit ceases.

In the case that most of your enamel grinding occurs during sleep, your sleeping habits might be causing the issue. Some people grind their enamel both throughout the day as well as during the night, but it’s much simpler to control the problem when you’re awake. If you have trouble sleeping or keep irregular hours, this could be contributing to night-time tooth grinding. One tip to lessen the problem is to change your sleeping position. We also recommend avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed. Those who grind their teeth while sleeping may also have snoring and sleep apnea troubles, so be sure to consult your dentist to how best treat your tooth grinding along with these other issues.

If you notice that your child is grinding their teeth when they sleep this should be a big concern. It usually indicates an airway issue: large tonsils, small throat, etc. which can cause obstructive sleep apnea. (You do not have to be a 250 pound person to have sleep apnea.) As the child tries to breathe, the throat (which is really just a soft tube) collapses on itself preventing airflow. Children and adults will grind and clench their teeth to allow the muscles of the neck to try to open the airway. Have them checked by a dentist or pediatrician familiar with sleep medicine ASAP.

If you routinely chew gum, tobacco, pencils, or other objects throughout the day, this may also be contributing to your enamel grinding. We suggest you steer clear of chewing non-food items. Chewing gum is the most common, and while it appears to be an ordinary and harmless behavior, it encourages your jaw to bite and clench. If you develop this habit, your jaw will want to continue to bite and clench even when you are no longer chewing gum.

Although enamel grinding can be a stubborn issue, it’s one that many people have overcome and you can as well! If you take the time to explore these treatments and consult your dentist, you will come to a solution that bests suits you and your habits. For more information or to schedule an appointment to stop your teeth grinding and clenching, call our office today at (562) 434-6414.