Stress is one of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity and one of the main reasons for grinding or clenching teeth. The muscles in the jaw tighten when stressed and put pressure on the teeth and gums. This pressure wears away at the tooth enamel and makes it more prone to decay or breakage.
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and clenching, the everyday habits of people who suffer from stress. These unwanted habits can lead to tooth stress fractures or even tooth loss. Bruxism can also cause problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Pain may develop if you grind or clench your teeth often because of stress. In severe cases, TMJ problems can be debilitating and require surgery.
Luckily, there are several ways to combat stress and protect your oral health.
You can reduce stress through meditation. Meditation has been shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain, reduce anxiety and depression and improve sleep quality. Meditation has also been shown to lower cortisol levels in the bloodstream (i.e., the hormone associated with chronic stress and high blood pressure).
One type of meditation has been researched and shown to reduce stress, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The purpose of an MBSR program is to help people reduce stress and anxiety levels by learning how to be more mindful or aware in their daily lives. It is a secular form of meditation available anywhere and at any time and does not require any special equipment beyond a willingness to learn about mindfulness.
According to Dr. Andrew Huberman of Stanford University, we can reduce stress by changing our breathing patterns. Called a “physiological sigh,” this technique involves taking a couple of deep breaths in quick succession and exhaling completely. A physiological sigh employs the tiny gas sacks in your lungs, or the alveoli, which expand the amount of air you can take in. These bags deflate over time, reducing the amount of oxygen in the blood and causing carbon dioxide levels to rise. This process causes the physiological response towards relaxation.
A massage can help you relax and release the tension in your muscles. It also improves blood circulation. According to a new study by psychologists at the University of Konstanz in Germany, a massage can measurably reduce stress.
Massage therapists can use many different types of contact during a session, including kneading, tapping, rolling and vibration. These various methods are used to improve blood circulation and stimulate relaxation. In addition, some may find that using oils or lotions during a massage can also bring about benefits.
Getting a Night Guard
Aside from addressing underlying stress, one has to address the symptoms of stress-induced teeth grinding. A night guard can help alleviate some of the symptoms of teeth grinding by creating a cushion. A night guard is a device placed over the upper or lower teeth. Night guards can help prevent tooth wear from grinding by cushioning the hard surfaces of the teeth. These devices are typically made from a silicone material with a wire mesh covering.
A Parting Reminder
While there are many ways to reduce teeth grinding, such as wearing a mouth guard, the best way is to remove stress, the likely cause of teeth grinding, from our lives. Practicing yoga, meditating, deep breathing and getting enough sleep are ways to combat stress. Aside from practicing stress reduction, it would help to talk to your dentist about the best treatment options for your teeth.