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This article was written by Dr. Kimberly Dyoco, an avid dental health blogger who enjoys sharing her expertise and knowledge on a variety of publications.  She is a general and cosmetic dentist in Chicago and the founder of the practice One Mag Smile on the famous Magnificient Mile in the heart of downtown Chicago. To learn more, visit www.1magsmile.com.

Teeth grinding is more common than you might think and if you wake up with an aching jaw and unexplainable headaches, you could be doing in your sleep without even knowing.

In fact, about one in three people suffer from bruxism, which is the technical name for teeth grinding. Most often, it’s caused by stress and people with hyperactive personalities suffer the worst.

It may seem like a harmless habit, but grinding your teeth can cause serious damage to your mouth over time.  It can loosen your teeth from your gums, fracture teeth, wear away the enamel, and in the worst cases, cause a tooth to fall out!

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But the good news is that you there are several natural remedies that can help you stop.

There are a few symptoms of bruxism you might not be paying attention to:

  • Aching jaws
  • Recurring headaches
  • Tooth pain
  • Developing jaw joint disorders

A lot of us put off going to the dentist, but if you haven’t been recently and you have any of these symptoms or are certain that you do occasionally grind your teeth, you should check in with your doc to check on the level of damage.

Your dentist will probably spot it right away. If they do confirm that you display signs of bruxism, they might prescribe a muscle relaxer to calm you down or even recommend surgery to reverse any problems. But before it gets to that point, try these natural ways to naturally kick the habit.

1. Get a Mouth Guard

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The best part of this remedy is that you can get mouth guards at drugstores. Most varieties allow you to customize them to fit your mouth by softening with hot water so that it can mold to the shape of your teeth. You can also visit your dentist to get a high quality model that’s made just for you.

It might be a little awkward and uncomfortable to sleep with it in at first, but once you get used to the feel of it, you’ll be able to doze easy. The guard won’t make you stop trying to grind, but it will definitely defend against any further damage so you don’t need oral surgery down the line.

2. Get Your Stress Under Control

Teeth grinding is a very common symptom of anxiety and stress. So play the long game by taking measures to reduce the stress in your everyday life.  Making exercise part of your routine will help you sleep better at night. Better yet, taking a restorative yoga class or guided meditation session has long-term benefits to your health and state of mind.

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Try this: before bed, take a half hour to just sit and breathe. Don’t worry about going totally yogi-zen, but counting to five with each inhale and exhale will start to calm your brain. Make hot showers and herbal tea part of your before-bed routine. If none of that seems to help, consider talking to someone professionally. Stress messes with your sleep, then your teeth, your overall health and your next day. It’s worth trying to tackle it for many reasons.

3. Stop Chewing Gum & Drinking Coffee

Funny enough, chewing gum can get your mouth into the habit of needing something to do. So if you’re popping some spearmint before a big date or meeting, try a mint instead. That way when you’re snoozing at night, your muscles won’t be missing the activity.

Coffee and caffeine also induce stress, so if you take out the caffeine later in the day, you’re bound to get better rest and lay off your molars. And they sort of go hand-in-hand: you won’t need a stick of gum to fix your coffee breath!

4. Massage Your Jaw

Ok, so maybe you can’t kick the habit. After you go to the dentist and assess the level of damage, if you’re still grinding your teeth there are lots of natural ways to relieve pain without an aspirin. Massaging your jaw with two fingers in a circular motion will help with the pain. You can also try to consciously think about your jaw and try to relax during the day. Odds are, you’re holding your tension right there. Take a minute at your desk to actively relax it. If the pain gets really bad, take warm washcloth and lay it over wherever it hurts.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s not a permanent habit. Throughout life and high stress periods, bruxism will ebb and flow. As long as you know the symptoms and check in with your dentist on a regular basis, damage done to your teeth can be reversed and future damage avoided so your mouth can be as healthy as the rest of you.

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