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I Ask: How Do I Stop Grinding My Teeth?

by Alex Iwashyna

in I Ask Advice, Sponsored or Giveaway

I don’t consider myself a stress case. I have some anxiety around how much people suck, but beyond that, I’m pretty cool with life.

I’ve always thought it was because I’m awesome.

Lately, I’ve realized that it’s not. I just grind the crap out of my teeth to deal with life. {sigh}

I’ve had headaches my whole life, and my jaw is crunchy. No dentist ever mentioned grinding until 2004. When I was told: YOU ARE GRINDING YOUR TEETH TO DUST.

Making me suspicious that I didn’t begin in 2004.

I was fitted for a $400 night guard that doesn’t even make me coffee in the morning. And my morning headaches went away! But I also ground holes into the plastic within 6 months. MY GRINDING TEETH WILL NOT BE BESTED!

In the first few weeks after E’s birth, I lost my $400 night guard. So I thought: I’m awake every other hour 24 hours a day 7 days a week, I won’t even have TIME to grind.

After a week, I called my dentist crying. My jaw ached. My head hurt. And my boobs were sore. He thought the night guard would help the first two. I thought that I should get a discount for being given a less versatile night guard.

$400 and 2 weeks later, I had a new night guard. My headaches went away.

But over the last year, I noticed that my jaw and neck ache when every morning. And often throughout the day.

And then I had to get gum surgery. And when I cried out to my oral surgeon: I’m only 30 years old! Why is this happening to me?

He responded: I have never seen such thin gums. And you grind your teeth like you’ve been doing it for 60 years. Teeth grinding and gum recession are linked.

Thanks a lot Mr. I-Paid-For-Another-Three-iPhones-For-You Surgeon. Now I’m grinding to deal with the stress of my grinding.

Oh and every year, my dentist accuses me of not wearing my mouth guard because my teeth are getting so stumpy.

I WEAR IT EVERY NIGHT OR I’M IN INORDINATE AMOUNTS OF PAIN, JERK.

A few months ago, I began jaw massages every other week in an attempt to save my jaw, neck and mind from snapping. The massages were so painful at first, I thought that I must have run over her cat in a past life. But those muscles were just so tense that any amount of pressure AT ALL made me beg for death by 700 knife wounds. Mostly because it’d be more gentle.

After months of massages, my jaw and neck felt better! But if I went longer than 2 weeks, every muscle seized up. And I’m just not up for selling a kidney to keep this up my entire life. Or even the next year.

Now, I haven’t had a jaw massage in 2 months, and my neck feels like it trying to yank my head to my shoulders permanently.

And then Tuesday happened. I was grinding my teeth at night like usual. Except this time, I sucked a piece of my cheek in between my night guard and teeth. And went right on sleeping.

When I awoke, I had a huge gash in my cheek and MOUTH GASHES HURT. I wore my mouth guard again Wednesday night until my cheek begged for me to stop, and by beg, I mean made me want to rip it off every time I drifted off to sleep because I would suck in the cheek gash behind my night guard and die. So I had to sleep without it. (The night guard. I kept my cheek.)

I’ve already begged my dentist to let in on me the secret to stop my grinding. She responded: Well, working in front of a computer seems to worsen it. THAT’S NOT WHAT I ASKED. And also, THAT’S MY LIVELIHOOD.

Either we can go back to writing letters in longhand so I can take a break from the computer while still maintaining my writing, reading and blogging, or you can tell me how to stop grinding my teeth. (Please choose the latter.)

I’m open to ANYTHING that isn’t illegal. Or too illegal.

I ask: How do I stop grinding my teeth?

PS. I’m trying very hard to not let this blog become a dental blog. You’re welcome.

UPDATE: My teeth grinding has gotten better. Although I can’t go one night without my night guard still, I don’t need massages anymore I think because I’m managing my stress and taking more breaks from the world. I do live in fear of losing my very expensive piece of plastic that keeps me from grinding away my teeth and destroying the muscles in my jaw and face particularly when I travel so a nice company, Pro Teeth Guard, who read this post contacted me to try out their night guard. They provide professionally made, custom-fitted night guards at a more affordable price.

Pro Teeth Guard teeth molding

DIY teeth molding.

I received the kit in the mail to do the mold and then got the actual night guard very quickly after I sent it back. The guard isn’t as thick as my night guard by my dentist, but I’m relieved to have a backup system and will probably choose to travel with it over my guard that cost three times as much. Because dental insurance doesn’t cover night guards (at least mine doesn’t), this is a nice, cheaper alternative as well.

Disclaimer: I was given the opportunity to try out the Pro Teeth Guard night guard kit for free, and if I felt like telling you guys in this post, I could.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracie March 4, 2011 1

My husband is a teeth grinder.

In the middle of the night (on nights that I’m not squinting at the computer screen commenting on blogs, but actually asleep in bed) the sound of his teeth grinding will wake me up.

It is usually mixed with his snoring.

The only thing that has worked is if I roll him on his side (that’s for the snoring) and then hold his jaw still…..usually for about fifteen minutes, after which he will relax and stop grinding.

Clearly your husband has been slacking in his duties as jaw holder.
(and clearly my husband does not have dental insurance, and does have a general dentist phobia which has prevented him from getting a mouth guard)
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Kim March 4, 2011 2

Woah, you scared me for a minute. The whole teeth grinding/snoring combo made me wonder if we are sleeping with the same man! But mine HAS a night guard (which he doesn’t wear) and he can snore on his side. LOUD. :) It’s actually been a while since the noise of his grinding has woken me up, but his molars are full of cracks. Maybe the snoring just drowns out the grinding noises. I don’t know. I sleep with earplugs.

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Tracie March 5, 2011 3

hehe That would be a bad way to find out that your husband was sleeping around.

Earplugs are a great idea. I might have to get some of those for myself.
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Stay At Home Babe March 4, 2011 4

If you figure it out, let me know. I just posted a picture of my crazy expensive bit guard yesterday :). Great minds…

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Jamie March 4, 2011 5

My husband used to grind horribly like you describe. Headaches and jaw pain. Chiropractic care really helped him!
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Racheal Cook March 4, 2011 6

Right there with ya. The only thing that has worked for me (in addition to the $400 mouth guard) has been combo of yoga, reducing caffeine (which is usually freakin’ impossible), and vitamin B to manage anxiety & depression. After about 2 years working with my regular doc and dentist, my Naturopathy doctor is the only one who gave suggestions that help and aren’t so expensive I have to give up FOOD or ELECTRICITY.
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Anita March 4, 2011 7

You might not want to hear this recommendation, but here it is:
I too am a teeth grinder — unless I am on the right dosage of my antidepressant. If I go too low, I grind the hell out of my teeth. Correct dosage = no grinding! True.
xo

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Alexandra March 4, 2011 8

Oh.

What can I tell you?

That reading this makes me feel included with someone on this planet? I mean that helps me, but not you.

I, too, have worn holes through my nightguards and have cracked teeth, and wear those heated microwaveable neck packs when I sit at the computer.

That, I figured out on my own and it works.

My Dr told me sitting in front of the computer is making me clench, and I didn’t even KNOW THAT.

SO, I went and picked up some warm instant microwave heat pads and wear them on my neck and shoulders, and it keeps my muscles from tensing.

Yeah, I get up a ton to heat and reheat…but that’s also good for the threat of blood clots…that is higher in occurence from hours sitting.

So, win win.i
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Klz March 4, 2011 9

Write the letters, take a picture,’post those. You’ll reinvent the internet

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Krystyn March 4, 2011 10

Please if you figure out how to stop..let me know.

I’m not a grinder, like back to back and side to side. I just clench my teeth. And, I’ve got the holes worn in them mouth guard to prove it.

However, when I hit up the chiropractor and she readjusts my jaw, it definitely helps with the pain. But, I still clench.

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AKeo March 4, 2011 11

I have no answer for you, as I do not grind my teeth and my husband has done nothing to cure his grinding – I’m useless. I agree with some of the comments about finding something to reduce the anxiety/stress – yoga, less caffeine. Preventive is always a great place to go! But if your pain is that bad and the massages work – you might have to start a new blog so you can keep those going.

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Megan (Best of Fates) March 4, 2011 12

My dad used to grind his teeth, only I suppose he has a bit of an overbite, because when you look at his bottom row of teeth they all look like a ski slope. Which also answers the question, do you what what the inside of teeth look like? I do – it’s rings, like a tree trunk. Sadly though, he quit grinding when he quit his stressful job, so that’s not very helpful. Maybe meditation or something to generally calm your mind?

(Worst comes to worst, you can just dictate your blog posts and your husband can write them, so we’ll still be able to get our daily doses!)
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Abby March 4, 2011 13

I’m beginning to wonder if my jaw problems aren’t related to grinding as well. Food for thought. As for your problem, I can only say THAT SUCKS, and I hope you find a solution. Sorry I can’t be more help. :0/
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TheKitchenWitch March 4, 2011 14

I’m a horrible grinder, too. Eventually, I figure I’ll look like a meth addict. Niiiice.

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Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli March 4, 2011 15

Grinding here too and gum problems. But I’ve not needed a night guard yet. However I am very familiar with neck tension and headaches. I have a buckwheat hull pillow. It’s my best headache defense. Massages are awesome, get them.
Hot baths with Epsom salts will help to extend the massage benefits.
Exercise? Might help.

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jennie March 4, 2011 16

I grind my teeth. My pain mostly presents in my ears and feels like the worst ear infection ever. I also have terrible dental issues. I’ve found my anxiety medicine helps a little- but not enough. Chiropractor makes it feel better- but doesn’t fix it. Sigh.

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dee March 4, 2011 17

I’ve had this problem since early teens (now mid 30s) and at an early age was instructed to consciously make an effort to keep my jaw slightly open. I’ve been doing it for so long that I don’t even think about it any more. And gotta find another outlet for stress and frustration relief….

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Aileen March 4, 2011 18

I too grind my teeth. I’m not good about wearing my night guard but I’ve never paid for a dentist made guard. I have always bought the ones near the pharmacy that you boil and mold yourself. Think they’re $20 or less. So it’s not so bad if you lose it or grind through it. I used to lose it out of my mouth in the middle of the night. Instead of keeping it on my top teeth, I molded the next one to my bottom teeth and it was much more tolerable and I stopes losing it out of my mouth. It’s just not the sexiest thing in the world, but neither is the sound of my grinding I’m sure.

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Chara March 4, 2011 19

Hypnosis? Th e mind is pretty powerful. I’d say it’s worth a shot.

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Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points March 4, 2011 20

Himself went through a really bad phase, had to see a PT specialist about it.

The PT made Himself put colored dots all over the place as a visual reminder. When you see the orange dot RELAX YOUR JAW.

My house looked like that Dr. Seuss book with the polka-dotted animal for a while.

But he got better.

So….there’s that?
Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points recently posted..More Things I do Wrong

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Tammy March 4, 2011 21

Run, do not walk, into your nearest co-op or Whole Foods and pick up some homeopathic belladonna. It works. I had a co-worker spend over $1000 for a contraption that didn’t work. I gave him some belladonna and he had slept better than he had in as long as he could remember. No grinding at all.

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MommaKiss March 4, 2011 22

I’m so glad I read this today. JUST came from my dentist. They want me to try a night guard. I have The Headaches, The Grinding. They actually suggested braces. And I’m not a candidate for invisalign or whatever Tom Cruise was wearing. Um. No. I’m 36 years old. So they want to start w/ the guard.

No I don’t know WTF to do – you’re still in pain, eh??
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Late Enough March 4, 2011 23

Okay, so a night guard changed my life in that I stopped getting those awful headaches. I could’ve cried with gratitude. And even today, I can tell a difference when I go even a day without it and that difference is noticeable.

The problem is that the night guard gave me some relief (no headaches) but no solution (and I now have neck and jaw pain — although that’s probably also computer/work related). I feel like I now need a solution because 1) I think that my day time clenching has gotten worse over the last two years (see other parenthesis) and 2) because of my cheek gash I can’t wear my night guard.

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MommaKiss March 4, 2011 24

Well the cheek gash, obvs that’s gotta KILL!

I have back / neck stuff too – stress city over here. My dentist (who says things like “my cat needs to get laid” and drops the f-bomb. random) said I could wear mine during the day, too. If i can afford it. Which I clearly need. Something, anyway.

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Nikki Rules March 4, 2011 25

I grind a lot too. Like you I got the guard, but realized it made me grind even MORE. Sure it protected my teeth but my jaws (dah-duh-dah-duh-dah-duh) (yeah that’s the theme song to JAWS) got worse. Way worse. So I ditched the overpriced guard… I can replace the teeth but not the jaws and the neck.

I think the grinding has reduced and this is my trick: during the day, while I’m actually conscious of it I TRY to control my jaw clenching. If I reduce the clenching during the day, then technically it should follow during the night. It’s like when you’re working on the computer and you suddenly realize you haven’t blinked in over 20 minutes… You need to force yourself to sit back, blink, relax the jaws and continue working. If it becomes natural all the time you’re awake, it becomes natural while you sleep. The clenching part, not the blinking. You shouldn’t blink in your sleep.
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K March 4, 2011 26

I’ve got nuthin’ other than I once had to share a room with my brother while on vacation and he used to grink his teeth. The SOUND! Oh, the sound. It was worse than the combined noises of nails on a blackboard and cats fighting.

So maybe you record yourself grinding at night?
K recently posted..Embarrasing admission of the day

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K March 4, 2011 27

(Oh my gosh. I reread my comment and meant “…record yourself grinding YOUR TEETH at night.” Nothing more seedy was implied, I promise.)
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andygirl March 4, 2011 28

I know this seems off the wall, but have you thought about talk therapy? maybe there’s stress that’s making you grind in the first place. or even some kind of physical activity that would help you let off some steam. maybe?
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Cathy @ All I Want To Say March 4, 2011 29

Oh no that sounds horrible! I have no advice. You can shun me if you will but I say do what works. If the neck massage was working, go back to that – once a week, can you do that?
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Dr. Cynicism March 4, 2011 30

Holy crap! I wonder if this is why I always have headaches. All of my teeth are getting this rounded shape from my grinding. Please keep me updated about how things turn out!
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Allison @ Alli 'n Son March 4, 2011 31

OK, for the longest time I was the queen of teeth grinding and clenching. So much so that in high school my jaw locked. Yes, locked. For months I could only open it a couple of centimeters. Any further and it just stopped, sent shooting pain through my jaw and instantly caused tears to spill out of my eyes. I eventually went through physical surgery to get my mouth to open a normal amount.

Some things that helped me, was to relax my jaw and mouth before going to sleep. Even opening it a little. I wore a mouth guard for a while too. Stress was a major trigger, so maybe doing something relaxing before bed, like reading, will help. Eventually I stopped, most nights, but I still have jaw problems to this day. If I eat a bagel I’m in pain after, and my jaw clicks when I open my mouth.

So, anyway, now that I’ve written a novel, stress was always the biggest trigger for me. Finding ways deal with it or eliminate it {ha!} is my best piece of advice.
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MK March 4, 2011 32

I am SO sorry, because I can SO relate. I haven’t had jaw surgery yet, but I know it’s coming soon. Have the mouth guard, headaches, neck/back pain. If you find something that really works, let me know!

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Martha March 4, 2011 33

I think the only thing that hasn’t been recommended yet is acupuncture. I had terrible neck pain after A was born and I was sleeping funny all the time and staring down at her while nursing. My neck was so swollen on my left side, I felt like I was growing a third shoulder. Acupuncture helped tremendously. And if they tell you that you need a ton of sessions, they’re lying. My acupuncturist says one or two sessions should make a difference and if it doesn’t it’s not going to help much to do a bunch.
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AbsolutelyKathy March 4, 2011 34

Sorry no help here. I used to grind my teeth when I was younger, I mean it sounded like a machine gun is what my sister told me. I wore holes in my mouth guards. But I have not noticed if I still grind my teeth. I hate dentist with a passion and my husband snores like crazy and can sleep though anything. So he wouldn’t tell me if he heard me grinding. I think I have just switched my teeth grinding with talking in my sleep and border line night terrors ( the kind that I don’t remember) but my husband says I scream in my sleep sometimes and hit him at times. Oh and I use to walk in my sleep. It is a good thing he loves me. I do believe stress plays a huge roll in teeth grinding so I vote for yoga as well or anything that lowers your stress and maybe no eating late, lower caffeine, and don’t eat spicy foods late. These are things I have read and have also read that highly creative people can have sleeping issues. So who knows maybe your teeth grinding is linked to how creative you are. Your mind is working overtime.
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Cori March 5, 2011 35

To stop grinding your teeth, you have to reduce your stress. Some ways to reduce stress are:
– exercising (yoga, walking..)
– ask your doctor for a muscle relaxant
– acupuncture, physical therapy, bioresonance, hypnosis..
Other things that you can do to stop grinding teeth:
– avoid alcohol
– avoid caffeine (coffee, chocolate, colas..)
– relax your jaw muscles by holding a warm cloth against your cheek before going to bed.

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Suniverse March 5, 2011 36

I’ve loosened a molar from grinding. During the day. I’m feeling you.

I got an amazing mouth guard about 10 or so years ago. It is some kind of hard plastic/rock-type substance that is impermeable and it only goes on the front two teeth. This is perfect because it keeps me from completely closing my mouth so I can’t clench or chew a hole into the side of my mouth. I slept with it every night and would wear it during the day when I was stressing [I can't even begin to explain why I'm not wearing it now - too much craziness.].

If I recall correctly, it was pretty pricey, but totally worth it. And it’s lasted forever.
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themother March 6, 2011 37

Can’t help. I now wear a $1200 top and bottom night guard. It doesn’t stop the grinding, but it holds my lower jaw out forward so it doesn’t take as much pressure, and it keeps my jaw muscles more relaxed so I don’t get the migraines. Called a “Tap-T”. Ask your dentist.
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shasta March 8, 2011 38

Husband has one of those PureSleep mouthguards for snoring which basically pulls his bottom jaw forward slightly and keeps his mouth open. Maybe something like that would work? It’s got an upper piece and lower piece, and both are molded to fit his teeth. The rubber seems super-hard so maybe it will stand up to the grinding and clenching.

Also, FWIW, Husband has a history of AWFUL neck & shoulder problems which frequently result in debilitating pinched nerves, muscle spasms, and migraines. Our Tempurpedic bed has helped immensely.
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themother March 8, 2011 39

The Tap-T is generally used for sleep apnea and snoring. It just happens to work to prevent my migraines. Again, ask your dentist.
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MFA Mama March 6, 2011 40

I dunno, friend, but if you do find a good answer please pass it along (says the girl whose dentist said “if you’re ever mugged just BITE ‘EM, you’re like, PART ROTTWEILER!”). I’m on my fourth $500 nightguard.

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Jane March 7, 2011 41

I am not a teeth grinder but my father was – grinded is teeth away actually – dentist had to give him a whole new set. But in my business this problem as come up and seems to be more common than I realized. The Grinding could be a symptom of a lack of Trace Minerals, Calcium Deficiency, B vitamins, Pantothenic Acid, and Magnesium. There could also be some adrenal failure due to too much caffeine or stress on the body- Adrenal support supplement (which usually contains Vit B’s, Magnesium and other adrenal supporting herbs) could be helpful. There is also Nature’s Life “Lavender Calm” which is a natural calming combination that supports adrenals and helps with stress. Lavender oil can be rubbed on your jaw line before bed. There is also “distress remedy” or “rescue remedy” that you can pick up at health conscious grocery stores, this is a Bach flower remedy and is known to have calming effects.. The homeopathic belladonna is a good suggestion too… Drinking 1 cup a coffee a day in the morning is ideal and be careful of green tea’s (because they have caffeine too). I am big fan of stress reliever’s too… Yoga, mediation ECT…Hope this helps.. :) good luck

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Tammy March 8, 2011 42

I agree with several other of the comments. I am a teeth grinder and I rarely wear my nightguard anymore. Like some have said, make a conscious effort to relax your jaw all day long. The other thing that no one has mentioned is placement of your tongue. I was told that I should relax my jaw and put my tongue at the roof of my mouth behind my front teeth. I think this helps with the relaxing. Since I started doing this, I am grinding less at night and my jaw is not near as sore. I think that the jaw relaxation combined with stress reduction is the key to stopping the grinding. Good luck!

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MommaKiss March 9, 2011 43

I came back to tell ya that my dentist said my guard would be $825. EIGHT HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE?! Ugh. I don’t know what the h to do.

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Late Enough March 9, 2011 44

holy crap. you can consider doing the one’s you buy at CVS and mold yourself and see if those help first. I think that they are like $20.

ps. other people on here have mouth guards that cost $1200 if that helps… oh wait, it doesn’t

pps. i have a jaw massage scheduled for tomorrow.

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GG March 11, 2011 45

I grind my teeth alot. Stress will do it to me every time. My dentist said I have mild TMJ. I have a suggestion, if you have jaw pain so bad you can’t stand it, go to a chiropractor. Ask them to use ultrasound therapy on your jaw. I went to the dentist to get dental work done. He had my mouth open for so long, that when I got home I could not open my mouth. Could not take a bite out of an apple! And my jaw hurt. The next day same thing. I saw my chiropractor for a back problem and thought why not try ultrasound. He had never done it before, but was willing to try it on my jaw. It worked! One treatment and the next day I was fine. Good luck!

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Althea April 28, 2011 46

Have you tried hypnosis? I see many online hypnotists having cd’s that are supposed to help you stop grinding your teeth.

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René van der Westhuizen May 24, 2011 47

HAHAHAHA! Never have I enjoyed a blog as much as this one! Oh and I can identify with ALL you said. Now I must just go find myself some friends like you, for laughing and relaxing and thus less grinding. Capice

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emily October 10, 2012 48

oh man, I’m hearing you. with a dental plan discount, I paid $350 for my mouth guard. I had to get the impressions twice as the first guard would NOT go in. It’s a life saver but I notice I grind and grind all during the day, when reading, working, in the gym, etc. There’s no break from it. My teeth look…fine, but to me I notice huge recessions and the enamel has completely chipped away on the bottom row, at the root, revealing a darker color. The teeth are still white, but the bottom row at the root is soooo painful. Getting my teeth cleaned w/ that metal implement…they actually have to numb the area first. I’ve been asked if I was bulimic by hygienists. I’ll need reconstructive gum surgery as well, probably in the next 3 to 5 years. I’m 28 btw. Bottom line, I hear you. I’m not stress-free, but I”m not super stressed either. It’s just how we’re wired.

Maybe behavior therapy/ behavior modification would help us?

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