27 Jul 2018 What to Do About Teeth Clenching
Many of us live stressful, busy lives, and our bodies react in different ways to our stress. One way we may be reacting to stress, without even knowing it, is by clenching our teeth. Your jaw muscle is one of the strongest in your body. During the day, when we feel stress, sometimes our jaw muscle clamps down without us even being conscious of it. Even in sleep people clench or grind their teeth.
This condition is called Bruxism. What causes this condition? What can be done about it? Sometimes this condition can go away on its own, but if you are experiences wear and tear on your teeth, headaches, or jaw pain, there are many things you can do to address this problem and to address the stress in your life.
Bruxism—What are the symptoms?
Bruxism can be manifested in several symptoms:
- A sore or swollen jaw
- Tenderness in the jaw
- Broken or missing teeth
- The chewing surface of the teeth noticeably worn down
- Damage to the inside of cheeks
If you have any of these symptoms, the best way to get diagnosed is to go to your dentist. He or she can review your symptoms but also look at your teeth and see how they have changed over time. Your dentist can determine if Bruxism is the cause of your pain and discomfort or if it is some different cause of jaw pain like a TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) disorder.
What causes Bruxism?
The number one cause of Bruxism is stress. Stress affects us mentally and physically. Bruxism is a physical manifestation of stress. Sometimes Bruxism can also be related to sleep disorders like sleep apnea. If you suspect that something else could be going on with your sleep, please see a sleep specialist.
What can be done to treat Bruxism?
Since Bruxism can be caused by stress, decreasing stress in your life will help with this problem. Sometimes Bruxism will go away on its own. If, however, you are experiencing chronic or extreme pain, obviously, you will need treatment.
Treatments for Bruxism:
- Meditation, yoga, walks, music, and anything else you can do to manage or alleviate stress in your life.
- If your condition is anxiety-related, you could see a counselor and try an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication. If you can decrease anxiety in your life, your Bruxism may improve as well.
- Mouth guards. Your dentist could make you a custom mouth guard that could be worn at night or during the day, anytime you find you clench or grind. Wearing a mouth guard protects your teeth from being prematurely worn down or fractured.
- Renewed chewing surfaces or crowns can be used to treat teeth damaged from grinding. This dental solution would go best with plans to relieve stress.
- Conscious behavior change. Practice stretching your jaw and putting your teeth in proper alignment. Put your tough between your teeth during the day at times that you would be tempted to clench them to remind yourself not to clench.
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol in the evenings. Both seem to make Bruxism worse.
- Don’t chew on non-food items like pens or pencils.
- Avoid chewing gum because it gets you in the habit of clenching your jaw throughout the day.
- Use a warm washcloth at night on your cheek in front of your earlobe to help relax your jaw muscle.
- If your doctor recommends it, try some Botox in your jaw muscle. Botox is often used for facial wrinkles because it paralyzes the muscle causing a wrinkle like a frown line, for example. It may help to relax your jaw muscle. If you don’t like how it feels, the good news is that Botox will wear off in a few months. It is not permanent.
As you can see, Bruxism can be treated in a number of ways. If you suspect you could have Bruxism, take the first step and get diagnosed. It’s not permanent! You can feel better! Call us at My Holladay Family Dentist so we can help you get feeling better.