We all experience stress over many things in life and this is normal. The bad news that you might already know, is that stress affects our bodies in many annoying ways, it might be acne or what this is article is about; jaw-clenching or teeth grinding.
Jaw clenching or aka scientifically Bruxism is the act of grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw in a painful way, usually while you are asleep. It is often related to stress or anxiety, dental issues, or even genetics. Though It does not always cause symptoms, some people get facial pain and headaches, and it can wear down your teeth over time. Tightness in the jaw can even cause our faces to look more severe—the jaw is one of the body’s most powerful muscles, so we don’t want knots there.
Because it happens while we are asleep, you might think it is impossible to control, but the good news is that there are some healthy habits you can follow to reduce this problem as much as possible.
1 || Learn to Manage Your Stress
You should learn to relax your self and manage your stress in healthy ways. Try meditation or deep breathing exercises before bed to calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. There are many apps that will help you with that, click here to check some out. You can also use some relaxing herbs during the day and before bed. chamomile tea is known for its calming properties. You can also try lavender, Inhaling the evaporated essential oil of this plant has the ability to eliminate nervous tension. This won’t solve the issue, but with regular use, it will calm your nerves and release stress.
2 || Massage Jaw Area
Another great way to reduce muscle tightness and increase blood flow is massage. Start by applying a warm washcloth to the area. Then massage it while it’s warm by opening your mouth and gently rubbing the muscles next to your ears in a circular motion. put your tongue between your teeth afterward to force your jaw to relax and continue with the conditioning. You can do this several times during the day and right before bed. You’ll also find a lot of jaw massage videos on youtube some using fingers, some using gua sha like this one.
3 || Avoid Caffeine
By now we all know that caffeine elevates cortisol levels (the stress hormone), so if you are an anxious person then your best bet is to cut out caffeine completely. If that’s not an option for you then try to avoid the consumption of caffeine before noon to see if that helps you ease down on the clenching, at least before bed.
4 || Avoid Alcohol
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching increase after alcohol consumption. Studies show that sleep bruxism was highly associated with alcohol and tobacco use – even more than patients who drank 8 or more cups of coffee a day! So try to reduce drinking as much as possible, or better avoid it entirely.
5 || Be Mindful
You can actually train yourself not to clench your jaw. If you catch yourself clenching, place your tongue between your teeth; this practice trains your jaw muscles to relax and will help decrease the clenching. There are many things that we can improve if we bring our awareness to them like jaw-clenching, shallow breathing, slouching.
6 || Consult Your Doctor
If your case is severe and none of the previous ways helped you, then you should consult your dentist. Most likely he will give you a custom-fitted occlusal guard. An occlusal guard is a type of nighttime mouth guard made of smooth, thin plastic that is fitted over your teeth. It will protect your teeth, but also make it less comfortable to attempt grinding as the goal is to eventually stop completely.