3 Ways to Cope with Bruxism

Tmj Dentist McLean, VA

The unconscious grinding, clenching or gnashing of teeth, or bruxism, is a common neurological or psychological condition. While most mild cases will often disappear over time, more severe instances may require medical intervention. However, as this is an unconscious or subconscious behavior, many people do not realize they have an issue until experiencing adverse side effects, such as headaches, jaw pain or damaged teeth. For patients who are diagnosed or are aware of such a condition, it can be hard to stop the behavior, especially when it occurs during sleep. Therefore, it is necessary to develop coping strategies to reduce further damage to the teeth and other physiological symptoms.

Coping with the condition

Many patients find it challenging to deal with a condition that is deemed neurological or psychological. To define bruxism as a habitual behavior without conscious control is often confusing to those who suffer from it. However, it can help to understand that the cause of teeth clenching is often related to stress or anxiety, which means there are potential coping mechanisms that patients can use to reduce and possibly eliminate the occurrence of the behavior. There are three coping strategies that have proven to be effective: psychotherapy, appliance therapy and health management.

1. Psychotherapy

While not an effective treatment for every form of this condition, some forms of teeth grinding are related to stress, anxiety and other social and psychological issues. Talk therapy, biofeedback and habit modification can all be effective intervention options in these cases. However, while learning relaxation techniques can help reduce the symptoms of this condition, other therapies may need to be combined to create an effective deterrent to clenching and grinding behaviors during sleep.

2. Appliance therapy

Another standard treatment for teeth grinding, especially during sleep, is the use of appliances. For example, a mouth guard may be prescribed to reduce the risk of damage to the teeth and to alleviate pressure from persistent clenching that can lead to headaches. These nighttime appliances can be purchased from a store or made custom. Most over-the-counter guards are pliable and moldable to create a snug fit. Custom guards may take longer to make but are sure to fit more securely during sleep.

3. Health management

Aside from therapy and appliances, a dentist may prescribe medication to alleviate symptoms or suggest behavioral adjustments. For example, muscle relaxants or medicines for stress and anxiety may be prescribed. Also, if a patient suffers from teeth clenching during sleep, the dentist may suggest making changes to bedtime routines, such as eliminating tech from the sleep environment or using relaxation techniques before sleep.


Bruxism is a common condition that is often involuntary or unconscious. Patients may require medications or therapy to help reduce the symptoms of the condition, and appliances, such as mouth guards, can be used to prevent damage to the teeth. Sufferers of this condition should contact their dentist as soon as possible to receive advice and necessary medical intervention.

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