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Given that teeth grinders are genetically predisposed to brux, is there anything they can do to eliminate the habit? Not much, according to Dr. Rugh. “It’s like an ulcer,” he says. “It’s something you have to learn to manage the rest of your life.”
The most common treatment dentists prescribe is a night guard, a molded, protective plastic shield that fits over the top or bottom teeth. Some dentists may feel it necessary to grind or cap the teeth to modify a bruxer’s bite, although in most cases it’s rarely needed, says Andrew S. Kaplan, D.D.S., director of the TMJ/Orofacial Pain Clinic at Mount Sinai School of Medicine of the City University of New York in New York City.
If bruxing is causing severe damage, muscle relaxants or even antidepressants may be prescribed to temporarily reduce the tension that’s causing the problem in the first place. But that’s the extreme case. There’s plenty you can do to manage your bruxism before it ever goes that far.
Play it cool. Since stress exacerbates bruxism, do what you can to reduce your stress. “Take a stress reduction class,” suggests Richard Price, D.M.D., a clinical professor of dentistry at Boston University’s School of Dentistry and an adviser to the American Dental Association. Dr. Kaplan has found that biofeedback treatments can help teach patients to identify situations that provoke stress and to relax when they arise.
Stretch it out. Like any group of muscles, jaw muscles can be loosened up with exercise. John Dodes, D.D.S., lecturer in the Department of Dental Medicine at the State University of New York School of Dental Medicine in New York City, recommends simple stretching exercises such as opening your mouth moderately wide in sets of ten with your fist under your jaw for pressure.
Scratch the stimulants. A simple way to reduce the tension in your body is to cut stimulants such as coffee or tea out of your diet, Dr. Rugh says.
Sleep around. You can sometimes reduce your nighttime bruxing simply by sleeping in a different position. John C. Brown, D.D.S., past president of the Academy of General Dentistry, suggests asking your mate to monitor what position you’re sleeping in when you’re grinding. Try shifting to a different position—onto the other ^ide or onto your stomach if you grind while sleeping on your back—and see if the bruxing subsides. Use pillows to keep propped in the most desirable position.
Soothe the pain. For temporary relief of sore jaw muscles, take ibuprofen or aspirin, Dr. Kaplan says. You can also apply moist heat to the jaw, he adds, either with a wet washcloth or a hot pack, or simply let the shower run on your face for a few minutes. Don’t let the water get so hot that it burns your face, though.

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