Tense? Escape the Grind

Tense? Escape the Grind

Next time you look at your teeth, do more than check to see whether there's spinach between them (but do that as well).

See if the tops of your bottom incisor teeth and the bottoms of your top teeth are flat, or somewhat jagged. If they're flat, that could indicate that you grind your teeth, putting you at greater risk for wearing down, breaking, or splitting your teeth and leading to gum and mouth problems as you age (big problems, like getting your teeth from a jar every morning). Another clue: You have a small, whitish ridge on the insides of your cheeks running parallel to the biting surface of your teeth. Why the white line? You use your cheek to keep your teeth from touching.

(Take a quick tour of your mouth -- it can provide clues to your overall health.)

Grinding not only is bad for your long-term tooth prospects but also causes jaw pain. Think of your jaw as a three-legged stool, with one of the legs being your front teeth and the temporomandibular joint on both sides being the other two. When you grind your teeth, you shorten a leg and throw off the balance of the stool, causing jaw pain and headaches.

(Next time you get a headache, try a little fingertip therapy.)

One solution: Cork it. Literally. Sounds weird (and it looks kind of weird, too), but you'll thank us for it: Take a cork from a wine bottle and hold it lengthwise between your front teeth (without the bottle, slugger). Now, relax your jaw and mouth muscles around it for at least a few seconds (or forever is good). This helps ease some of the built-up tension.

(Here's another technique to help you relax your jaw muscles.)

Medically reviewed in May 2019.

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