Tired of Clenching and Grinding Your Teeth? How to Stop Bruxism

Young woman suffering from bruxism symptoms

Try This Meditative Breathing Technique – It Only Takes 16 Seconds!

You may be unfamiliar with the term “bruxism,” but there is no doubt that you have experienced this dental problem at some point. Bruxism is the often sub-conscious act of grinding or clenching your teeth. Our bodies tense up when we are stressed or anxious. We may clench our jaws, grind our teeth, and experience muscle stiffness or cramping.

Read on to learn more about what this dental problem is, what causes it, and how you can work to prevent or stop bruxism from continuing. 

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism, or grinding of one’s teeth, occurs during the daytime when we are awake (awake bruxism), or at night when we are asleep (sleep bruxism). While it is not entirely clear what causes bruxism, stress and anxiety are thought to attribute to its occurrence.

This grinding or clenching of the teeth and jaw affects more than just your teeth. While the most common symptoms of bruxism focus on the teeth—grinding away tooth enamel, gum and tooth soreness or sensitivity, and broken teeth—other symptoms include headaches, sore or stiff neck and face muscles, and ear pain.

You have probably heard of the term “fight or flight” as a triggered response to confrontation, but did you know there is a third response to stressors? The third response, “freeze,” is what occurs when fight or flight responses are not possible, and your muscles tense up preparing to take action.

If we do not actively think about our response to confrontation or stress, the primitive portions of our brains will react to sitting in a traffic jam the same way they would have responded to being threatened by a saber-toothed tiger. Our brain’s response will be to fight, flight, or as with most daily modern-day stressors like traffic or work, freeze.

Bruxism—the act of clenching your jaw—is part of the freeze reaction.

What Causes Bruxism?

There is no clear answer as to what causes bruxism. However, many factors may contribute to the start and continuation of this dental condition. Stress and anxiety, food and nutrition, and several mental and physical disorders—including sleep apnea, Parkinson’s, and ADHD—are thought to contribute to this dental condition.

Awake bruxism is easier to identify and link to specific causes, while sleep bruxism is harder to identify and may be more challenging to treat. If you are concerned about jaw pain or stiffness, sore teeth or gums, or think you may suffer from this dental condition and want to know how to stop grinding your teeth, contact your dentist.

How Common is Bruxism?

According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, bruxism is generally a periodical disease—one that occurs inconsistently and due to outside factors throughout someone’s life. This dental condition also decreases in occurrence as we age, with children being the most prevalent age group to experience this condition.

Age, genetics, and outside influences affect the prevalence of bruxism. While some people may experience clear signs that they suffer from this disorder, many do not notice it until the symptoms cause significant tooth damage. Regular visits to the dentist can help keep an eye on conditions like bruxism, as well as many other preventable diseases.  

The Meditative Breathing Technique to Help You Stop Grinding Your Teeth

At Hempfield Family Dental Care, we know the pain, sensitivity, and dental damage that bruxism can cause. That is why we use a meditative breathing technique inspired by davidji that only takes 16 seconds. This meditative breathing technique works to try and create a “pattern interrupt” that will help you stop bruxism in its tracks.

You start your meditative breathing by taking a breath through your nose, counting to four. Hold that breath for an additional four seconds and then exhale to the count of four. Finally, hold your breath out for the last four seconds and then start to breathe normally. This 16-second interrupt will help you focus your attention away from grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw and allow you to interrupt the bruxism pattern. 

Reach out to us to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can work with you to disrupt this dental condition and relieve the pain and discomfort it causes.

Other Options to Help Prevent Clenching and Grinding 

While pattern interrupters like the 16-second meditative breathing technique may work, you should also be aware of other bruxism prevention methods to try at home. These are just a few.

Mouth Guards

Since bruxism can wear down the enamel that protects your teeth, adding a mouth guard for sleep bruxism can alleviate some of the damage that would typically occur. A mouth guard will protect your teeth and can add a cushion layer to protect your jaw from clenching.

Massage Your Jaw

Massaging your jaw and surrounding areas—like your neck, shoulders, or head—may alleviate the tension caused by bruxism. Since we know that this dental condition affects areas other than your mouth, it is essential to treat the symptoms in other areas as well.

You can work massage into your daily care routine, or seek the help of a professional massage therapist who has experience with these symptoms.

Eliminate Triggers

The food and substances we consume can also affect bruxism. Caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol may all have a negative effect on this dental disorder. Eliminate all possible triggers to see if the symptoms weaken or disappear over time. However, if you have eliminated potential triggers and are still experiencing symptoms, it is time to discuss your concerns with an experienced dentist.  

Are You Experiencing Bruxism?

Schedule an appointment with Hempfield Family Dental Care to learn more about how to stop grinding your teeth and create a routine that eliminates bruxism from coming back. Our dental practice in Lancaster, Pa., has more than 35 years of experience in helping patients obtain their best smile and dental health.

We always discuss your dental services and treatment options with you to make sure they fit your needs and budget. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help with any of your family’s dental care needs!