If you’re lucky, you’ll learn that you are grinding your teeth when the person who shares your bed tells you about it. If you’re unlucky, you’ll learn it at a visit to your dentist, with teeth that are worn down or broken due to this bad habit (formally known as bruxism).
Dentists often prescribe mouth guards to prevent tooth grinding. There are also over the counter devices available at drugstores. But these devices don’t really stop the behavior; they simply keep the teeth separated to avoid the negative consequences. If you want to stop tooth clenching/grinding completely, you need to address the underlying causes. The most common underlying cause is stress and tension in the powerful jaw muscle known as the masseter.
A backrub feels good and helps your back muscles relax. In the same way, massaging your jaw will help the masseter muscle relax. While you can’t give yourself a backrub, you can massage your jaw by yourself. Try kneading in circles around the spot where your jawbone and cheekbone come together.
Moist heat also helps muscles loosen and relax. Wet a washcloth with warm water and hold it against your check and jaw– aim for the same spots you massaged with your hands. Keep it there until the cloth no longer feels warm.
Yoga and Stretching
Yoga helps relax your mind as well as muscles. Yoga has poses that target every muscle in the body, including the jaw. In Lion Pose, you open your jaw as widely as possible and stretch your tongue out and down as far as it will reach. (You should probably do this in a private spot!)
Some yoga instructors feel that poor posture and a collapsed upper body, possibly from sitting at a computer all day, contribute to jaw tension. A pose like Mountain Pose that emphasizes standing straight may help if this is part of your problem.
If you object to yoga because of its religious origins, you can try a non-yogic stretch. Place a cork the long way between your teeth and bite down on it; hold the bite as long as you can.
Hypnosis and Biofeedback
Hypnosis and biofeedback are sometimes recommended as treatments for tooth clenching and grinding, but not everyone believes they are effective. Some professionals believe biofeedback (which requires awareness of a behavior) may be useful for preventing daytime clenching/grinding but not for problems at night. In the case of hypnosis, some studies have found benefits lasting as long as three years, though other studies are less conclusive.
Watch What You Put into Your Body
All those things that are bad for you for other reasons– poor diet, too much caffeine, too much alcohol, smoking– have been named as suspects in causing bruxism.
Those injections that eliminate your frown lines can also minimize spasms in jaw muscles. This is a technique for extreme cases only, however.
Eliminate the Root Causes of Your Stress
The techniques above will help you handle stress in ways that are less harmful to your body, but you may want to pursue other approaches that truly eliminate the stress. Individual root causes are unique to each person’s life circumstances– are you eating poorly? Do you have financial concerns? Is there a family issue that needs to be addressed? If you are able to resolve that issue, you may resolve your teeth grinding issue as well. Don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor or other counselor for assistance. When stress takes itself out on your teeth, you can be sure it’s harming your body in other ways as well. If you’re able to solve the issue, you’ll have lots of reasons to smile.
TLC Dentistry | Dentist in Salinas, CA
The dentists at TLC Dentistry in Salinas are experienced in every area of dentistry, including clenching and grinding prevention. If you or someone you know needs assistance, schedule an appointment today: (831) 757-1038