01/27/2012 05:53 pm ET

5 Tips For Battling Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is a common sleep disorder that can affect sleepers of all ages. We spoke to Karen Keenan, D.D.S., of Waltemath, Keenan and Parkes in Nashville, Tennessee, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might be suffering from teeth grinding disorder, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner

"The primary cause of nighttime teeth grinding is teeth malocclusion," Dr. Keenan says. "The teeth don't fit together. During the day, the brain overrides the teeth that don't fit and fixes the jawline. But at night, the brain keeps trying to make the teeth fit together, grinding the teeth together in the process."

Use A Nighttime Teeth Guard

"There are many plastic and acrylic guards that sleepers can wear," says Dr. Keenan. These pieces of plastic fit between the upper and lower jaw, protecting the teeth. "But this is just a temporary fix," she adds.

Consider Teeth Equilibration

According to Dr. Keenan, it's key to treat the malocclusion. "If teeth are only slightly misaligned, we can fix that in an office visit," she says. Casts are made of the teeth and areas of malocclusion are identified. Sometimes, just grinding down a small part of a molar is enough to fix the problem.


For more severe cases of misalignment, more adjustment is needed. "Braces are another way to change the patient's bite," Dr. Keenan advises. Over time, braces change the teeth in relation to each other.


"Sometimes tooth grinders will wear the enamel off teeth," says Dr. Keenan. "You can actually see two different colors when looking at the bite surface of the tooth. As the teeth are rebuilt, the bite is fixed, preventing future damage."

Relax And Stay Informed

According to Dr. Keenan, teeth grinding is a relatively new area of study. "We are constantly learning new therapies and treatment," she says.

Karen S. Keenan, D.D.S., graduated from the University of Oklahoma School of Dentistry in 1984. She served a one-year general practice residency at St. Anthony's Hospital in Oklahoma City.

Have you ever suffered from teeth grinding? What worked for you?