Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, some of them physical. Sweaty palms, an unsettled stomach, and stuttering are some common side effects that may occur in individuals faced with some kind of difficult decision, problem or deadline. While such unpleasant episodes eventually pass with little more than temporary embarrassment as a result, one of the more destructive forms of anxiety is teeth grinding. Grinding your teeth can create damage that you cannot fix! Follow these suggestions to try and get rid of teeth grinding in your life.
1. Take stock of your life.
As mentioned above, teeth grinding is most likely the result of anxiety. One of the ways to combat this problem is to take stock of your life.
How can you do this? Take a piece of paper and write down all of the things that are causing you levels of stress that exceed the normal amounts people experience every day. These may include problems with the performance of a co-worker at your place of employment, pressures you are undergoing as a student, issues that have sprung up in a relationship with a friend or partner, or a health situation within your family.
Are there any ways that you can eliminate these stresses, or try and minimize the impact that they have on your life? Getting rid of what makes you anxious is a key first step.
2. Make lifestyle changes.
Anxiety can be difficult to overcome, but it is not impossible. Do you consume excessive amounts of caffeine? The Mayo Clinic advises that 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe, but remember that this covers all forms: caffeine can be found in more than just coffee, soda and energy drinks and as a stimulant, it can significantly increase the sense of unease that may be directly contributing to your teeth grinding.
Insufficient sleep can negatively affect our productivity, which leads to stress, so try and get eight hours of solid rest each night if you can. If it means doing without some things or distractions in the meantime, then so be it! If you find yourself constantly running out of the time necessary to accomplish the tasks of day-to-day living, draw up a detailed and realistic schedule that will hopefully reduce or eliminate this area of tension in your life.
3. Address recurring issues.
Are there things you can do to repair interpersonal relationships that may be increasing your stress? Have a long, heartfelt discussion with the friend or partner you are in conflict with and see if there is a way to iron out your differences.
If you are falling behind in school, revamp your daily timetable and/or get some tutoring to help you out. Try and find common ground with your co-worker and if that cannot be achieved, suggest that you approach your supervisor in the hopes of finding an equitable solution.
Family health issues are something that we all must deal with at some time, but there are resources out there that can help one to navigate the often involved and convoluted health care system; ask your family doctor for recommendations on how to contact organizations best able to assist with the issue currently plaguing your family.
If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, this is a sign that you should access the mental health resources in your area. While appointments with private practitioners can be costly, there are highly qualified and approachable counselors employed by organizations that determine fees using an adjustable scale. Your physician can be a good starting point on what is out there in this regard as well.
4. Use dental splints.
Teeth grinding is a learned behavior that may take time to overcome. Fortunately, there is a way to protect your teeth while you address this issue.
Known as Occlusal Splint Therapy, this practice involves a dentist making a mold of your upper and lower teeth. A splint or “guard” made of acrylic is then produced from that mold and it fits over your upper or lower jaw.
Depending on the amount of grinding you are doing, the dentist may instruct you to wear it 24 hours a day. Fortunately, for the vast majority of people, the splint is only worn at night when you are asleep. While it might take a few evenings to get used to having such a thing in your mouth, most people adapt to guards quickly and these effectively protect teeth on both sets of jaws from additional, destructive wear.
While prices vary amongst dental practitioners, these devices generally cost a few hundred dollars. If you have dental insurance, check with your provider to see if some of this expense is covered. Over the counter splints are available in drug stores at a much lower cost, but beware: they rarely fit properly and if the guard does not stay securely on your teeth, it will serve no purpose.
5. Use negative reinforcement.
The vast majority of grinders have no idea they are doing it, so it usually takes an outside source to inform them. A partner or family member may take you aside and mention that they are being awakened by the sound of you clicking your teeth together or a dentist may mention that your upper and lower jaws are exhibiting signs of grinding. In whichever way you do find out, it is important to formulate a plan that will be either stop the action from occurring or at least protect your teeth from further damage when it does happen.
Try some negative reinforcement: get your spouse or friend to point out to you the times when you are grinding your teeth. Every time you are caught, put some money into a jar. Using this “grinding tax” can help you become more aware of your own actions. This action also becomes a positive, as you will suddenly have a jar of money! If you have reduced or even eliminated your teeth grinding, use this money to treat yourself to something special.
6. What happens when you grind your teeth?
As you might imagine, grinding your teeth together can be quite noisy. While some people may do this during the day without realizing, it occurs mostly when we are asleep. Recurring anxiety or negative dreams often leave a person feeling unsettled and an outlet for the body to release that tension can be through the clenching of the jaw. This action causes the upper and lower teeth to come together and grind.
As you might expect, teeth are amongst the hardest substances in the human body. However, they are designed for breaking down food, which offers little in the way of resistance. When teeth come into contact over a long period of time, wear begins to become apparent and this reduces the capacity of the teeth in question to do their jobs. It can also lead to their premature demise and this can negatively impact your oral health.
As mentioned, overcoming teeth grinding may take some time, but there are a number of ways to address the stress and anxiety in life that leads to this behavior. In the meantime, take heart: you can both protect your teeth and reduce the amount of noise your grinding is creating by having a night guard created by your dental provider.