Teeth grinding and clenching have become quite common amongst adults and even some children. We deal with a lot of stressors in a day and many people hold that tension in their neck and jaw. This can cause you to grind your teeth and clench your jaw tightly especially at night while you are sleeping which causes your teeth to wear down, fractures, pain, headaches and TMJ disorders. Using mindfulness and meditation can help to relieve stress so the grinding and clenching stop.
How Do I Know I’m Grinding My Teeth?
Most people are unaware that they grind their teeth because it usually happens while they are sleeping. If you wake up with a constant headache or a sore jaw, you may be grinding your teeth at night. There are many factors that can cause bruxism (the medical term for grinding and clenching) including sleep apnea, anxiety, stress, crooked teeth or an abnormal bite alignment. If you think you are grinding your teeth at night, talk to your dentist. They can examine your jaw and mouth to check for tenderness or if damage has been done to your teeth.
How Can I Stop Grinding My Teeth?
Lowering your stress level can decrease the amount that you clench and grind your teeth. Practicing meditation prior to bedtime helps to relieve stress and anxiety which makes it less likely that your system will seek ways to release it during your sleep. Meditation encourages you to focus on one particular thing and helps to regulate your breathing. This will typically result in a calmer mind and a more relaxed body.
The best part is that it only takes a few minutes of meditation a day to start reaping the benefits. There are several online videos and books that can teach you the various ways to meditate so you can get the most out of it. Any type of relaxation technique such as taking a nice warm bath before bedtime can work wonders as well to help you move into a mindful space and leave the day behind you.
Before bed, try to clear your mind as much as possible, forget about your day-to-day tasks and set aside what you have going on tomorrow. Staying present in your body and where you are at during that moment will really help you to reduce anxiety. Yoga, massage, Tai Chi and even an Epsom salt bath can also help you to relax and stay focused on the moment rather than past and future worries.
Whichever form of relaxing you choose, remember that when your mind is relaxed, your body will become relaxed too, including your mouth and jaw.
- Meditation usually involves focusing your attention on a single object or subject. One of the most common ways is to focus on your breathing. If your mind starts to wander, just take note of it and gently bring it back to your breathing. We recommend a meditation app such as Insight and choosing a guided meditation such as box breathing.
- The best time to meditate is when you first wake up, and especially to treat bruxism, right before you go to bed. This allows you to start your day with a focused mind and to end your day by clearing your mind of any worries and settling the body and mind to prepare for peaceful rest.
- Some people meditate for 20 minutes or longer, but even one or two minutes twice a day can work wonders for most people.
- Don’t worry about trying to sit in a perfect position or keeping your mind from wandering. The most important thing is to be comfortable and to draw your attention to your breathing. With practice and a little patience, you’ll get better at doing it.
Research from Harvard indicates that two months of meditation can change the gray matter of the brain. It will increase the size of the hippocampus which is responsible for memory, awareness, compassion and introspection. The frontal cortex which controls decision making also increases so you can focus on expansive thoughts, versus being focused on stressful triggers. The amygdala which is responsible for the stress response in the brain shrinks as well.
Mindfulness is a similar concept, but it can be practiced throughout the day and can really help to reduce the tension and stress that builds up in your body. It is focused on paying full attention to whatever it is we’re doing at any single moment without other thoughts creeping in. Mindfulness creates more control over the mind and how much anxiety we entertain at any given time.
When we are truly in the moment and completely focusing on whatever it is we are doing, there’s no room in our mind to think about all the other things we need to take care of in our life. If paying the bills creeps into your mind while watching a movie, you have two choices – either pause the movie and pay the bills, or make a mental note that you will pay the bills after the movie finishes and get back to watching, and enjoying, the movie. Doing this keeps the mind attentive to what is happening in the moment so you are only worrying or stressing about things at the time you can address them. Mindfulness essentially sets healthy boundaries with your thoughts.
Using meditation and mindfulness helps you to remain focused on what is in front of you and helps your body to rest and release tension. Since stress is the primary cause of bruxism (clenching and grinding), using relaxation techniques can help you to stop.
In some cases, a nightguard may also be necessary to protect your teeth while you address underlying stress and anxieties. Grinding can also have other root causes such as poor bite alignment so talk to your dentist about the best treatment plan for you.