Do you often wake up with a sore jaw? Are your teeth a bit more sensitive than usual? If yes, you may suffer from bruxism, one of the most common dental conditions.
Bruxism is simply the clinical term for teeth grinding. Bruxism is highly associated with stress, so managing stress is key to preventing teeth grinding from happening. Unfortunately, we can’t eliminate all sources of stress from our lives, so the treatment for bruxism is to develop stress coping mechanisms while protecting teeth from further damage.
But it’s not enough to simply say that ‘stress causes bruxism’. There are a variety of factors that come into play, and ultimately it all depends on the individual. Here are a few causes of bruxism, along with recommendations for treatment.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress is such a broad term, but it’s very often the root cause of teeth grinding. A stressful work environment can exacerbate bruxism, since the stress is ongoing and can’t be relieved unless major changes happen at the workplace, or you move to a new job. Anxiety disorders also create chronic stress, which can manifest itself through teeth grinding.
Implementing lifestyle changes to alleviate stress can go a long way towards stopping teeth grinding. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon if it interferes with your sleep patterns, and instead, opt for herbal tea. Practice mindfulness throughout the day, taking deep breaths and calming your mind if you feel your thoughts racing. Ensure you get enough exercise, as insufficient exercise causes tension in the body and mind. If there are emotional issues weighing on you, talk to a friend or trusted confidant. Saying what’s on your mind can relieve a great deal of stress. You may not feel better overnight, but regular application of these techniques can put you in a much better headspace over time and help reduce bruxism.
Smoking and Alcohol
Having a few drinks once in a while, or the occasional cigarette, likely won’t do much to your oral health but regular consumption of alcohol along with frequent smoking can definitely cause some harm. In addition to causing gum disease, oral cancer, and tooth loss, alcohol and tobacco also affect how you sleep. It’s more difficult to achieve deep, peaceful sleep after a night of drinking or smoking. This puts you at a higher risk of bruxism.
Cutting back on smoking and alcohol can help prevent teeth grinding, as well as boost your health in a number of other ways. Drinking and smoking are merely temporary fixes for stresses in our lives. In the long run, they are very detrimental to both your oral and overall health and can cause bruxism, amongst a number of other issues.
Many people suffer from sleep disorders through no fault of their own, and these sleep disorders can lead to teeth grinding in the night. Sleep apnea, for example, is when the throat muscles constrict during sleep and disrupt breathing. Nearly one in four people who experience sleep apnea also grind their teeth.
There are medical treatments for sleep apnea, such as surgery to open up the airways, but to protect the teeth the patient is advised to wear a mouthguard. This is a safe bet for anyone with bruxism. A mouthguard takes some getting used to but will prevent your teeth from grinding and wearing down the enamel. With too much grinding your molars will become worn down, exposing nerves and causing pain. This requires treatment with dental crowns to cover the exposed root.
It’s difficult to achieve a balance between achieving your goals and taking care of yourself. If you discover that you’re grinding your teeth, take a good look at your self-care practices. Here are some tried-and-true techniques for reducing stress, which can help you beat your bruxism:
- Doing some yoga or gentle stretching to wind down and calm the nervous system
- Taking a long, warm bath with aromatherapy oils such as lavender
- Reading a book
- Meditation and focusing on your breathing
- Going for a walk before bed
- Turning off electronic devices that shine blue light
- Incorporating more fresh, whole foods in your diet
- Avoiding alcohol and making sure to hydrate well
- Getting a massage
- Using the Alexander Technique, which promotes relaxation and postural awareness
- Training yourself to not clench your jaw during the day by noticing when your upper and lower teeth touch
In addition to the above techniques to get you relaxed before bedtime, invest in a custom-fitted mouthguard. You’ll be ensured your teeth won’t grind overnight, allowing you to sleep more peacefully.
Bruxism is a very common condition, caused by a wide variety of factors. Through lifestyle choices and some assistance from a mouthguard, your teeth will be saved from the damage of constant grinding. And you’ll be able to get back to your life, with less pain and a more positive perspective.
If you’re experiencing bruxism and want more information, call Dawson Dental at 1-877-542-2043, or contact us here.