Our last post explained the basic symptoms and solutions of bruxism, or grinding teeth. In this post, Dr. James Fondriest, a Lake Forest IL dentist specializing in jaw pain, explains how stress contributes to bruxism and outlines steps you can take to control and prevent teeth grinding. Bruxism is a serious problem, triggering immediate pain such as headaches and jaw aches. It can also cause of host of dental health issues. Continual teeth grinding and clinching can wear away tooth enamel, leading to decay, structural damage, and tooth loss. In time, habitual teeth grinders may require extensive restorative work such as root canals, bridges, implants, and even dentures. Teeth grinding also puts enormous stress on the TM joints, and can lead to osteoarthritis, bone loss, and a changed facial structure.
Causes of Teeth Grinding
While the exact reasons for teeth grinding are unclear, doctors believe that one of the main causes is stress, and according to Medical News Today, almost 70% of those who grind their teeth do so because of underlying tension and anxiety. The consequences of teeth grinding are grave so if you suffer from bruxism, learning to manage stress is a vital part of your oral health. While Dr. Fondriest will almost certainly prescribe additional treatments such as a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding, stress management is of fundamental importance.
The first step in controlling stress is identifying the sources of anxiety in your life. Take a close look at the different areas of your life – work, family, personal. Notice if there are areas where stress seems continually present. Identify any places in your life where you can eliminate stress. For example, do you constantly take on extra projects at work? Do you put too much pressure on yourself to keep the “perfect” house or be the “perfect” parent? Is there a friend who constantly turns to you at the first sign of trouble? It is important to find areas in your life where you can say no. After all, the chances are that you have higher expectations for yourself than anyone else.
Exercise for Stress Management
Regular exercise is one of the most reliable ways to reduce stress and relieve tension. Be sure to get 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week. While this may seem like yet another way to add stress to your already busy life, if you work these periods into your schedule, you will probably find that you feel better almost immediately. You may even notice a significant decrease in your teeth grinding. Remember, exercise does not have to be a burden. Choose something you truly enjoy to experience the greatest benefits. Go for a walk in the park, take a bike ride, or sign up for a yoga class.
One of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety is to indulge in the treats and activities you love. Making time for yourself and allowing yourself to put daily stress on the back burner, even if it is only for half an hour, can dramatically decrease the tension in your life. At least once a week, consider doing one of these things:
Watching a funny movie
Taking a bubble bath
Going for a round of golf
Scheduling lunch with friends
Going on a date with your spouse
Of course, if you are a constant teeth grinder, stress is most likely a serious problem in your life, and you should not try to control it in your own. You may want to consider visiting a counselor, and you should surround yourself with family and friends whom you trust. In addition to treating you for tooth grinding, Dr. Fondriest can make further recommendations for stress management. He can also refer you to other medical professionals who can help you to control your anxiety and put an end to your teeth grinding and clenching.