Grinding your teeth: teeth grinding or Bruxism is a medical condition associated with unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth. This oral-system-related condition is common among children and adults and occurs either at night or in the daytime. For some, the condition may trigger severe symptoms such as tooth pain, headaches, and jaw pain.
Evidence suggests there is a strong relationship between bruxism and stress, with some medical researchers associate awake bruxism with negative emotional changes. Others call sleep bruxism a sleep-triggered chewing bustle or a deep-sleep coping strategy. This article aims to shed light on teeth grinding and how it relates to stress.
What is Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding is a stress-related oral condition in which the patient’s teeth involuntarily rub against one another. While it happens unexpectedly to most people, some do it consciously but without control over their actions. Sometimes the force can be so powerful to the extent of causing damage to your teeth and oral system.
Bruxism is not a health problem affecting a worrying percentage of the world’s populace. However, it’s almost a regular condition among people undergoing periodical stress, burnout, problematic sleeping episodes, and sufferers of Parkinson’s disease. It has also been linked to several unhealthy lifestyles common in modern-day populations. For example, you’re more predisposed to getting bruxism if you’re a heavy alcohol or tobacco consumer or if you started consuming caffeine at a tender age and still partake in it.
The Relationship Between Teeth Grinding and Stress
Dozens of undisputable health research materials have directly connected prolonged stress episodes with teeth grinding. The body can lose its natural adaptive capability or, simply put, can lose its strength to respond strongly to bad stress signals, which often have long-term effects on your psychological and physiological processes. The body also loses its ability to fight the conscious or unconscious urge to grind your teeth repeatedly. In some cultures, teeth grinding is traditionally considered the physical manifestation of stress.
Many people with bruxism issues have tested positive for stress and anxiety-related disorders. Recurring stress periods maintain high cortisol levels and make the sympathetic nervous system extra-active. That may trigger physical responses, including the motion of the jaw muscles, leading to a build-up of tension often manifested in teeth crunching.
Bruxism occurs when you’re experiencing light sleep and only affects deep sleepers in sporadic instances. Anxiety causes a lack of sleep and makes it hard for you to enjoy deeper sleep. Therefore, it leads the list among the main bruxism-causing factors.
How Does Stress Manifest in The Jaw?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ)  looks like the ball-and-socket joint in your shoulders. It’s lodged between muscles that control the movements of the jaw, including yawning, chewing, and closing-and-opening processes. When you experience recurring stressful moments, you clench your jaw more regularly and uncontrollably. What happens at the end of the end is the build-up of pressure and strain in the jaw muscles. Accumulative pressure on the jaws can make them pull out and lose the normal alignment.
In severe cases, too much tension on the jaw can cause serious problems like lockjaw. Lockjaw is simply a condition in which muscle spasms make it almost impossible to open the mouth wider. The most common ways stressing episodes reveal themselves through your jaws include excess jaw pain, jaw-locking attacks, and difficulty chewing hard foods. Not treating the condition will often cause flow-on jaw dysfunction effects. These may include but are not limited to weight loss, neck pain, headaches, and ear pain. People experiencing serious stressful moments and uncontrolled jaw tension may also experience tension in their fists, neck, and shoulder muscles.
Self-Care Practices to Manage Stress Levels
The worst situation to ever be in is one where you can’t control your stress levels. The good news is, stress can be minimised from using several self-care practices.
Get Adequate Sleep
To control your teeth-grinding habits and bid goodbye to such embarrassing problems, you have to ensure you get enough good quality sleep as this is one of the easiest ways to take control of stress. You can use sleep aid appliances or in more severe cases of insomnia, medications can be taken to improve sleep (only to be used over short-time frames).
Remove yourself from scenarios and avoid environments that leave you feeling stressed and anxious and that don’t contribute positively to your life. For example, reduce time on social media. Focus on your own life and not the idealised lives of others and avoid unhealthy relationships.
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Work Life Balance
You must balance work and leisure time. When in work, give it your all, but also ensure that you allocate time to spend time on things that motivate you. Always use up vacation time, have an active social life and ensure time is spent with loved ones.
Don’t ever shy from doing things that make you happy and direct you toward optimal wellness. Focus on aspects of life and leisure activities that make you feel good, prompt feelings of happiness and give you a sense of fulfilment and purpose.
Lifestyle Choices That Will Improve This Condition
Changing your lifestyle can easily control most lifestyle diseases and conditions like bruxism. It’s a matter of identifying the contributing factors behind the severity of bruxism and taking the necessary precautions to control the situation. You are responsible for the choices you make in life and making choices that contribute positively are key to improving the bruxism condition.
Creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle may not be easy, but will pay dividends. If you’re used to an unhealthy lifestyle which consists of unhealthy food choices and lack of exercise, focus on these basic things first. For example, if you’re heavy caffeine and alcohol consumer, look for ways to reduce your intake. In some instances, it might be better to stop the consumption entirely.
With food choices, draw a plan meeting outlining the healthy foods you will eat and avoid consuming junk food. Also create an exercise plan for each day and partake in exercises that enable your body to generate enough endorphins to create euphoric feelings. That way, you can lower your anxiety levels which will go a long way in reducing bruxism.
How To Reduce Teeth Grinding
Your dentist will assess your bruxism and recommend the most approximate treatment, depending on the severity of the condition. However, most bruxism cases don’t require medical intervention. Unless it’s a severe case requiring therapies and dental treatments to prevent jaw discomfort and tooth damage, you can quickly treat your teeth grinding problem following the do-it-yourself methods recommended below:
- As it has already been confirmed, the leading cause of teeth grinding is stress. If you could manage your stress levels by engaging in exercises and activities that make you feel relaxed, you could bid goodbye to bruxism. Try time-proven stress management practices such as gentle yoga and guided meditation.
- Changing your behaviours and lifestyle will as well go a long way to help you battle bruxism. If you have been engaged in activities that threaten your health, stopping them is recommended. It will help you improve your jaw health and reduce bruxism issues.
- You could also opt for biofeedback procedures. These are powerful and reliable methods where high-quality equipment are employed to teach you the perfect ways to control your muscle activities.
Where Can I Get Help With Teeth Grinding?
When you discover symptoms of teeth grinding and want to seek medication care for the same, the best place to get quality assistance is from a professional dentist. Book an appointment with a credible dental clinic in your location and ensure a specialized dental expert attend to you. You must ensure the dentist has handled cases of similar severity to yours and is willing to attend to you. With the proper diagnosis of the condition, the dentist will know which treatments to recommend. The diagnosis process involves checking for bruxism-related symptoms and evaluating relevant medical history.
A doctor can also help with the condition and will tell you whether your condition is short-term or long-term. They will explain the likely cause of the condition and how best you can treat it. In most instances, they will recommend the medications suitable for your condition. Many medicines for teeth grinding are available as supplements, over-the-counter medications, herbs, and vitamins. Your condition and age largely influence the dosage amount and period.
Finally you could opt to see other health are providers such as a licensed therapist or counsellor to assist with exploring the root cause of your bruxism. Alternatively, it might be wise to see a stress-management coach who can advise on ways to manage day to day stress.