In our Ooltewah Dentist Office, we see patients who suffer from regular teeth grinding, also known as “bruxism.” Since stress is a major contributor to teeth grinding, we are dedicating this month’s post to suggestions to help you lower your stress levels.
Ways to Reduce Stress that Causes Teeth Grinding
Pain in the jaw from clenching teeth too tightly is bad enough, but stress can trigger many negative responses in our bodies, including headaches, high blood pressure, tense muscles, high blood sugar, heartburn, depression, and a weakened immune system. Here are a few ideas for getting your stress under control.
Ways to Relieve Stress at Home
We’ve all felt stress and wished we could escape the pressures of modern life to experience complete relaxation like the people in those bath power commercials from the 70s and 80s, pleading, “Calgon, take me away…” The home is usually a sanctuary for taking a break from stressors, but this doesn’t work if the pressure comes from a growing credit card bill or a baby that won’t stop crying.
Ask for Help and a Sharing of the Household Burden
You don’t have to keep up the façade of being Superman or Wonder Woman around the house. If other members of the household aren’t pitching in, speak up and let them know ways they can help. Talk to your spouse or a child about cutting back or getting a job if their spending is making it more challenging to manage debt. Don’t be afraid to accept help from a support system of family and friends, especially if you are the primary caregiver for a child or an aging parent. Keep a stress diary to track what triggers episodes of clenching teeth and other symptoms.
Exercise and Eat Better
It’s stressful knowing you’ve put on weight, aren’t getting enough activity, and not giving your body the nutrition it needs to perform at a normal level. You don’t have to hit the gym hard to experience changes. Simply walking around the neighborhood more often can make you feel more energetic and sleep better. Moderating your intake of stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and sugary foods can also help the nerves.
Calm the Mind with Reflection
Whether it is a daily prayer or meditation, taking a short pause to look inward can lead to a feeling of gratitude and inner calm. Try mindfulness to shift your focus away from negative thoughts and anxiety. Yoga has been found to increase body and breath awareness, lowering cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Soothing music and visits to the woods can also be very calming.
Do Things that Make You Smile, Laugh, and Feel Good
We’re all in favor of you showing off that beautiful smile. If watching a comedy takes your mind off stressors, make a date night of it. Light a scented candle if the aromas are pleasurable. Relish in social connections, including your church family, and take opportunities to cuddle, hug, and kiss when appropriate. A hobby like gardening may be enjoyable to you rather than hard work. A massage can alleviate physical pain from tense muscles. The companionship of a pet can also reduce stress, assuming your dog or cat behaves.
Defeat Chaos by Getting Organized with Checklists
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you don’t know where to start. Sometimes getting a grip on stress is as simple as wrapping your head around what needs to get done to change things for the better. With an action plan, you can focus on doing something specific each day that removes or improves a stressful thing from your life, better manage your time, and stop procrastinating.
Avoid Things You Know Stress You Out
If you get riled up reading political posts on Facebook, don’t jump into debating someone whose views differ from your own. If something bothers you, limit your exposure to it. If coming to a dentist’s office for a regular cleaning fills you with dread, DO keep the appointment, but definitely let us know so we can find ways to alleviate those feelings when you arrive at our Ooltewah Dentist Office.
Get More Sleep
Easier said than done if you stress manifests as insomnia. As much as possible, give your brain time to calm down before going to bed and try to go to sleep at roughly the same time each day.
Ways to Relieve Stress at Work
For many people, stress is synonymous with work: Making sure we get to the office on time, meet deadlines, say the right things to the boss. Earning a living doesn’t have to mean feeling miserable, though.
Take a Vacation
Easy enough, right? If your company offers paid vacation, it’s because it’s been proven that you’ll be more productive when you return from a bout of leisure. If you can’t afford a 2-week cruise to the Bahamas, find ways to do fun things closer to home. If you are feeling sick, your body needs time to rest so it can recover more quickly.
Learn to Say ‘No’
It’s easy to take on too much when we want to be liked at work and fear missed opportunities as a result, but you can find nice ways of letting people down gently and communicating when you are overburdened.
Options If Reducing Stress Does Not Resolve Grinding Teeth
If you employ these strategies and feel relaxed yet still experience tenderness in jaw muscles, your dentist may use X-rays to detect temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders or other dental problems. A sleep study might assess whether episodes of teeth grinding are due to sleep apnea or another sleeping disorder. Splints and mouth guards that fit over the upper and lower teeth keep them separated to avoid damage from clenching and grinding. Another treatment for severe bruxism is Botox injections. In severe cases affecting a patient’s ability to chew properly, reshaping of a tooth or use of crowns may be needed to repair the damage.
Finding Solutions for a Less Stressful Life
These are a few of the common strategies people use to reduce their stress levels and address teeth clenching or grinding. Consult with a doctor if you have a medical condition or before starting new exercise routines. Consider visiting a licensed therapist or counselor if the bruxism is related to anxiety. Please feel free to ask Dr. Keith Tedford for ways to treat bruxism or other dental conditions. You can schedule an appointment at Tedford Family Dentistry by calling (423) 238-8887.