Published: 10/22/2014 - Updated: 05/18/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
If you surprise yourself by clenching your jaw suddenly, or making noises with your teeth, or if you wake up at night with molar or jaw pain due to tension, you might be suffering from bruxism.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is when an individual clenches their upper teeth against their lower one, or when they grind them by sliding or rubbing the uppers against the lowers. Bruxism is considered to be a certain type of habit or tic that is similar to nail or lip biting.
People generally do this movement involuntarily. A lot of times they don’t even realize they’re doing it until their molars begin to hurt, or until they feel pain in their jaws. They could do it during the day, or at night while sleeping.
What causes this sort of tooth grinding behavior?
The most common causes of this attitude are:
- Accumulated and excessive stress.
- People that frequently control their emotions, or that don’t express themselves openly, repressing what they feel (control over anger and fear). Things that frequently cause annoyances, anxiety, or stress, could cause this behavior.
- Being too busy during the day and feeling deeply exhausted intellectually.
Consequences of bruxism:
Some people clench their teeth and never feel the symptoms until much later. These consequences depend on the level of tension that the individual experiences, and the strength with which they clench their jaw, or grind their teeth, or if their teeth are misaligned, what their sleeping habits are, their diet, and even their posture.
A few of these consequences could be:
- Molar pain, in several cases this is severe when there is a lot of tension.
- Neck pain, if when clenching your teeth you have poor posture, this tension will spread to the neck.
- Temporomandibular joint pain (TMA), which could cause earaches.
- Clenching teeth wears them out and makes tooth enamel weak. This could cause other dental problems like hypersensitivity, cavities, etc.
- Pain or inflammation in the jaw.
- In severe cases, individuals could even lose pieces of their teeth by excessive jaw pressure, which loosens the tooth or molar, until it finally falls out.
Other consequences that could evolve into more severe conditions:
Insomnia, caused by pain. Frequent insomnia impedes good rest and body relaxation, which could affect the individual’s general health. This could also increase nervousness or stress during the day, and decreases the body’s defenses, making it more prone to illnesses and contagions.
What to do to fix bruxism
a) Liberate tension.
The first things to do is to consider the severity of the tension or stress in your life. No remedy will completely work if you do not become aware of the emotional cause of said condition. This means your tension and your emotional control, primarily.
To begin to unravel what is causing this habit, you must learn to vent what you feel and prevent excessive control over what you may feel over your emotions. Whenever you feel angry or have any sort of anxiety, you must flow with this and avoid controlling it. Venting should be done in a private space, and the key is to not edit what you feel. This means, do not judge whether it is “good or bad”, just let it flow through your body. You could hit a ball around, scream into a pillow or inside your car, or throw rocks in a park, making sure not to hurt anyone.
This could seem a bit strange for people who are used to containing themselves emotionally, or trying to regain their composure or turning off what they feel. However, you must keep insisting in this physical liberation, overcoming this barrier that prevents you from venting. It is very important that you vent, especially anger or frustration. This greatly relaxes the body and removes tension and anxiety. The rule for this venting should be that you never hurt yourself nor anyone else, and sincerely express everything you feel, letting it flow through your body.
Exercising could be a good stress liberator, so try to practice some sort of sport like yoga or swimming. They are fantastic for relaxing and liberating stress. Water sports are fantastic for relaxation, but so are long walks, going out early for a run in the morning, or doing gymnastics. Dance can also be very relaxing, especially dance therapy, which consists of listening to music and moving intuitively. This last part will definitely help you feel deeply liberated and relaxed. Do this for a half an hour and you will notice the results.
b) Foods that cause stress and anxiety
In order to reduce your level of stress and tension, you absolutely must adjust your diet for some time, where you avoid white sugar and its derivatives (sodas, cookies, canned and sugary juices, etc.) Sugar is one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety in people. It creates big imbalances in the body that usually affect, damage, and deteriorate the nervous system. Avoiding refined sugar and sugar in your diet will help you to feel more relaxed. Also, stimulating or irritating food like coffee, chocolate, a lot of tea, or vinegar, should not be included in your diet.
Drinking 2 glasses of fresh vegetable juice, 2 liters of water, and increasing your consumption of nuts and whole grains will enormously help in keeping the nervous system healthy.
c) Remedies against pain
- While you’re stopping to grind your teeth or clench your jaw, you could help lessen jaw pain by applying ice.
- Do not eat hard foods so as to prevent further hurting your teeth. Avoid hard meats, as well as peanuts, walnuts, and almonds. These last few should be eaten, but blended, while your teeth are growing stronger.
- Search for a facial acupressure session to help relax your stress.
Is it good to use mouth guards?
Some people recommend using mouth guards to prevent damaging your teeth. Some people say, however, that using these could make problems even worse. At the end of the day, however, mouth guards do not solve the problem, they just help it temporarily. Once you stop using it or once it wear out, the problem and the pain return.
This is the best for bruxism, especially meditating before going to bed. In order for this to work, you must liberate your stress with some sort of physical activity or by venting your emotions. If you don’t do this, then meditation will only serve to help you go to sleep, but it will not work all night. Remember that clenching your jaw is one way that the body frees stress.
Whenever you vent your stress (at least one hour of physical activity), drink lettuce or lemon blossom tea before going to bed. Or, eat an apple to help you relax. Then, go to bed and breath deeply, follow these steps:
- Take three breaths, and for each one, say something like: “I release all stress in my body at this moment”. Do not try to relax, just allow it to happen in your body.
- Then, concentrate on your feet and feel how they relax. Imagine that your body feels more and more relaxed. Something that could help you would be to imagine a small light shine from your feet, and move up to your legs, hips, chest…until reaching your face. Stop in your teeth and visualize how this small light relaxes your jaw and each one of your teeth, as well as your tongue, the roof of your mouth, your throat, neck, ears, etc. Do this visualization until you go to sleep.
You can also support yourself during the day by reading literature that helps you learn more about yourself and to connect to yourself better. A lot of times we spend our entire lives doing too many activities and handling too many responsibilities (even taking care of others). We then don’t pay attention to what is really worrying us, or what causes us tension.
A few relaxing teas to help you be more relaxed at night, or during the day, are:
- Lemon blossom, passion flower, anise, chamomile, mint, lettuce, apple, and flowers.
If you do bruxism every day, you will notice that you may stop clenching your teeth because you no longer need to liberate tension, and you will feel must more relaxed and aware of what you feel.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 05/18/2018
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