I’ve, for decades, clenched and ground my teeth at night. I have a stressful job and I’m not going to change that because I make a lot of money for a fella who drank his way out of college long before his degree. I have no doubt my career will be responsible for years off of my life in the end, but the trade-off is worth it and I do what I can to mitigate the damage by living the rest of my life awesomely.
For the longest time I had a very expensive, well made sports bite splint that I wore at night. After having a bridge installed because I’d broken a tooth in half grinding my teeth at night years before, that splint was useless. I bought a two-pack of the set-yourself variety from the local pharmacy but the first one I set was poorly done – my bite was slightly off when I set it so it was less than comfortable by the time I woke up in the morning. Besides, you go from a pro-quality bite splint (the same kind Patrick Mahomes uses) to a boil and bite model, it’s a big fall in quality. I ended up throwing both of them in the trash and going without.
And so it was for a few years. As I’ve cruised through my 40’s, into my early 50’s, life was good. I’m clean and sober, fit, healthy, and happy… but “rise and shine” was more “rise, get moving and loose, then shine”. I put it to “getting old”. My lower back was so sore and stiff on waking I’d have a tough time putting on my fleece pajama pants in the morning (my arms were almost too short). Once I got moving, though, everything was okay.
Then I cracked a tooth grinding at night. Then another. I decided it was time for that second boil and bite, but this time I wouldn’t mess up the bite when I set it. I took my time and nailed it. My jaw is comfortable when I wake in the morning and isn’t out of place or stiff. I wear the splint religiously through the night now.
And that stiffness in my lower back is completely gone. This morning, as I was whipping on my fleece pants I thought, “Wait a second… that shouldn’t have been that easy”. And that’s when it dawned on me… when I wear my bite splint at night, I wake up loose. When I don’t, I’m tight and stiff until I get moving in the morning – I feel my age.
Here are some of the benefits of wearing a bit splint at night I’ve noticed now that I think about it a little bit:
- I sleep deeper, often through the night
- Fewer late night trips to the bathroom (say a 50 to 66% reduction)
- No to vastly less lower back stiffness
- No shoulder and neck pain on rising in the morning (this was pain I didn’t even know was there till it was gone – it was mild)
- I feel a decade, maybe more, younger on rising in the morning
- I wake up fresh
Friends, it’s hard to tell if you grind your teeth. I made the mistake of thinking stress reduction techniques might help – and they did with stress… right up till I chipped another tooth. I tried everything from prayer to positive thinking to relaxation techniques. While they did wonders for my outlook on life and my overall attitude, they didn’t touch my clenching and grinding. Only a bite splint could help with that.
Usually your dentist will be the first to notice you grind your teeth. If that is the case, don’t be like me. Don’t hesitate to do something about it. It won’t “go away”, it’s doubtful mindfulness techniques will work (though they absolutely help with overall attitude), and it will only get worse – especially when your teeth start to crumble. The expensive bite splints many dental establishments will sell are preferable (having had one myself), but even the inexpensive options available at your local pharmacy will correct the problems associated with teeth clenching and grinding if properly set. If you find your jaw uncomfortable on waking, you’ve likely set the bite incorrectly the first time. Try again until you get it right.
Trust me. A good night’s sleep is worth it.