Stop Grinding Your Teeth
You had a stressful day and you unleashed your tension by grinding your teeth at night. You can get temporary relief from over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin or acetaminophen, but that doesn’t get to the root of the problem. For that you’ll want to consult with your dentist. In the meantime, here are some ways to minimize the daily (or nightly) grind.
Relax Your Jaw
During the day, make a conscious point of keeping your jaw relaxed and your teeth apart. As a reminder to yourself, rest your tongue between your top and lower teeth – so if you start to bite down, you’ll chomp on some nerve endings. Doctors have observed that people who can break the daytime teeth-grinding habit are less likely to do it unconsciously at night.
Avoid excessively hard or chewy foods – not only gum and hard candy, but also steak or dried foods that require a lot of jaw action. And if you’re in the habit of chewing on the end of your pencil, try to stop. When you work your jaws during the day, the pattern is likely to continue in your sleep.
Wear a Mouth Guard
If nightly teeth grinding or clenching is contributing to your TMD, try wearing the type of inexpensive mouth guard that can be found in any sports store. This isn’t as good as a custom-designed mouth guard that dentists can provide. But even a sports-store product can be moulded for a good fit. Follow package directions to make it fit your mouth.
Don’t Stress Before Bed
Avoid stressful thoughts, activities, and movies in the hours before bedtime. You probably don’t realize it, but just before bed is the worst time to pay the bills, watch action films, or talk about your in-laws. Get to your finances, violent movies, and sensitive subjects early in the evening. If you are bothered by worries, jot down things that you need to address the next day. Then take a long, warm bath before you go to bed.
While you’re in the bath – or even when you’re lying in bed – cover your jaw with a washcloth that’s been soaked in hot water. The extra warmth will relax your jaw muscles.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum – or, better yet, stop drinking altogether. This is especially important in the evening. Though sleep experts aren’t sure why, people who drink heavily at night are more likely to grind their teeth when they sleep.
Avoid caffeinated drinks. Since caffeine is a stimulant, if you drink coffee, black tea, or caffeinated soft drinks, you’re far more likely to grind your teeth.
Get More Calcium
Take powdered magnesium and calcium – in a two-to-one ratio – every day. These minerals help your jaw muscles relax, particularly at night. Dosages range from 600 milligrams of calcium along with 300 milligrams of magnesium to 1,000 milligrams of calcium with 500 milligrams of magnesium daily. Start at the lower dose, and if you don’t get relief after a couple of weeks, increase the dosages. Calcium/magnesium tablets are also available, but they don’t dissolve as readily. When you use the powdered form, dissolve the mineral supplements in an acidic liquid like orange or grapefruit juice.