If you have ever woken up with a sore jaw, stiff neck, and headache, it may be due to bruxism. This dental problem is common and is better known as the often-subconscious act of grinding or clenching your teeth. If you chronically grind and clench your teeth, it can wear down the enamel, and facture or loosen teeth.
But how do you stop grinding your teeth, especially if it happens during your sleep when you are not aware of it? You can reduce your stress, wear a nightguard, and see a dental professional for regular exams to treat bruxism. At Hempfield Family Dental Care, Dr. Kolsun will be able to examine your mouth for signs of bruxism and recommend treatment to stop bruxism.
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. If you need further assistance, we encourage you to make an appointment with our office and let our dental professionals help you resolve this painful issue.
What Exactly 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). This grinding or clenching of the teeth and the temporomandibular joint (lower 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 deserve a healthy smile and teeth that can chew any type of food. If you are showing signs of bruxism, you need to consult a doctor or dentist.
What Causes Bruxism?
While it is not entirely clear what causes bruxism, some think that stress and anxiety contribute to its occurrence. Why? Our bodies tense up when we are stressed or anxious, which may cause us to clench our jaws, grind our teeth, and experience muscle stiffness or cramping.
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,” occurs when fight or flight responses are impossible, and your muscles tense up, preparing to act.
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 freeze, as with most modern-day stressors like traffic or work.
Bruxism—the act of clenching your jaw—is part of the freeze reaction.
Factors That Contribute to Bruxism
Many factors may contribute to the start and continuation of this dental condition. Stress and anxiety, food and nutrition, and several mental, physical, and sleep disorders—including obstructive sleep apnea, Parkinson’s Disease, 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. Contact your dentist if you are concerned about mouth and 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.
How Common Is Bruxism?
According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, bruxism is generally a periodical disease that occurs inconsistently and is due to outside factors throughout someone’s life. This dental condition also decreases as we age, with children being the most prevalent age group to experience this ailment.
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 and many other preventable diseases.
Try This Meditative Breathing Technique – It Only Takes 16 Seconds!
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 interruption will help you focus your attention away from grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw and allow you to stop 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.
How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth – 3 More Strategies
We have three more suggestions if you are wondering how else you can stop grinding your teeth. While pattern interrupters like the 16-second meditative breathing technique may work, you should also be aware of these other bruxism prevention methods to try at home.
1. 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.
2. Massage Your Jaw
Massaging your jaw muscles 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 patients who grind their teeth.
3. 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. You can also stop chewing gum because it allows your jaw muscles to clench more easily.
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 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!