One of the biggest causes of bruxism (or nighttime teeth grinding) is stress. All that tension can build up and make it difficult to relax while you sleep, leading to clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth instead of getting a solid night of rest.
It can also lead to a cycle that’s difficult to stop. Stress leads to grinding your teeth, which contributes to or exacerbates problems with dental health, which causes bruxism anxiety.
Because bruxism can cause health problems for anything from flattened teeth to temporomandibular jaw disorder (also known as TMJ or TMD), it’s important to address signs of teeth grinding as soon as you identify them.
Two birds with one stone
You might not have guessed it, but many of the most popular and tried-and-true techniques for addressing bruxism are the same things that can help curb stress. Because the two issues are so closely related, you can easily address them both at the same time.
If you think your stress is contributing to your bruxism (or that your bruxism is intensifying your anxiety), here are five tips to help both reduce anxiety and improve your dental health.
Getting in regular exercise helps your daytime mood and your nighttime relaxation. Exercise, even light or moderate activities, can give you a big boost of stress relief during the day. But its benefits also last for hours after you’ve put the sneakers away: exercise can help regulate your sleep cycle, giving you a better chance of getting more rest at night.
Whether it’s guided sessions, a group class, or just closing your eyes and taking a couple slow, deep breaths before you open up your inbox, the huge value of meditation is continuing to unfold through research and experience. Slowing down your breath (and your mind!) helps regulate your nervous system, increase focus, and decrease bruxism anxiety and stress.
It may seem like it’s just a luxury, but the benefits of massage go far beyond feeling pampered. Massage can help your muscles relax, improve circulation, help regulate that sleep cycle, and of course decrease stress and anxiety. Regular massage — whether it’s a full hour with a massage therapist or a few minutes of kneading your own neck and shoulders at your desk — can make a huge difference.
Unfortunately, alcohol can make it more likely for you to stay tense well after you’ve fallen asleep, increasing your chances of clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth long after your last glass of wine. Alcohol can also exacerbate stress, even when it feels like a cocktail is the easiest way to unwind after a difficult day. Skip the booze and focus on hydration instead.
Caffeine can also increase anxiety or trigger panic attacks, even when it seems like that cup of joe is going to give you a productivity surge. Like alcohol, it can make getting a good night’s rest feel nearly impossible — a good way to stay stuck in the cycle of stress or bruxism anxiety.
Many of these techniques can take some time to really improve your bruxism anxiety, and a dental guard can be a great support while you make longer-term adjustments. SleepRight’s dental guards comfortably protect your teeth and keep you from clenching your jaw at night. Pick one up at your local CVS, Walgreens, or Walmart!