Don’t like wearing a mouth guard at night to curb teeth grinding? Various alternative treatments can help.
If you experience nighttime teeth grinding, or bruxism, the primary treatment is to get fitted by your dentist for a mouth guard to wear while you sleep. But many people are uncomfortable wearing a mouth guard at night. It can keep you up at night, leading to a different set of problems. For this reason, many people with nighttime teeth grinding seek out alternative treatments for the condition.
Alternative Treatments at the Dentist’s Office
Some prescription medications have been tried with some success for preventing nighttime teeth grinding. However, Aurelio Alonso, DDS, PhD, an assistant professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, says that these medications are usually just temporary measures to provide relief, and problems can arise if they are used for long periods of time. “Medications such as anxiolytics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants are helpful,” he says. “However, side effects and the risk of dependence from some of the medications can be an issue.”
Another recent medical treatment for nighttime teeth grinding is a Botox injection, but here again, the relief may only be short-lived. “For patients that cannot or will not wear a mouth guard or for a person in a time of acute pain, some practitioners will inject medicine such as Botox in the jaw joint area to relieve pain,” says Steve Krendl, DDS, of Hopewell Dental Care in New Jersey. “This, however, must be repeated as the Botox effects wear off.”
Alternative Treatments for Teeth Grinding: Behavioral Options
Considering the short-term benefits of medications for nighttime teeth grinding, many people have explored other types of alternative treatments. Karyn Kahn, DDS, a dentist with the Cleveland Clinic, says that such treatments may be helpful for some people. “Alternative management therapy includes physical therapy, biofeedback, acupuncture, stress reduction therapy, and yoga,” she explains. “Self-awareness programs and instructions from dentists can also help patients recognize daytime clenching and bracing and any additional habits that result in jaw muscle contraction.”
Practical Approaches to Teeth Grinding Treatments
Because nighttime teeth grinding has no cure, any treatment, alternative or otherwise, is meant to bring relief and stop the damaging consequences of the grinding. The best approach to treatment is to start by having a good relationship with your dentist and work together to find the right solution for you. “The way I treat patients in my office is to first get a full history to understand symptoms, including medical and dental history, and any trauma history even if they think it may not be related to their teeth and mouth,” says Shila Yazdani, DDS, a cosmetic dentistry specialist in the Washington, D.C., area. “Then we take X-rays of their teeth and temporomandibular joint. Once all of the above data is collected, along with a home sleep test for those who are candidates, we are able to formulate a treatment plan option that is going to eliminate the source of bruxism, not just cover the wound with a Band-Aid, so to speak.”
If you have a child who’s experiencing nighttime teeth grinding, keep in mind that the problem may be short-lived and that it’s important not to over-medicate a youngster and risk additional problems. “Fortunately, childhood bruxism is usually outgrown by adolescence,” says Edward H. Moody, Jr., DDS, vice president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. “In most cases, while the noise is unsettling to parents, as long as no significant damage is taking place and it is not painful, there is usually no cause for concern”
Finally, if you have nighttime teeth grinding and had a bad experience with a mouth guard, you might consider giving it one more shot by having a new one fitted to your mouth. “Most patients can comfortably adapt to a properly designed night guard,” says Dr. Kahn. A consultation with your dentist should be able to address your concerns and get out a more comfortable orthotic.