Whether it is Covid-19, gas prices, or the overall state of our economy there is always something to drive our anxiety—a daily, weekly, monthly occurrence or event that pushes us to clench our jaws while we lie awake at night. But this doesn’t have to be so. Not that we can necessarily adjust the price of gas and groceries and eliminate a Covid, but we can adjust how we react to the stress these things create. With some thoughtful steps and strategies, Adam Brown DDS can keep you from grinding your teeth and get you back to that healthy, restful sleep you need every night.
Stress-induced teeth grinding is on the rise, dentists say.
Last July, ABC News released a report indicating that more adults and children suffer from a lack of restful sleep and from teeth grinding than we have seen in years past.
With this information in mind, it seems that mouth guards and sleep aids, such as melatonin—a natural sleep-inducer that has become popular in recent years—are quelling a problem rather than eliminating it. Most experts agree that grinding teeth and struggling to gain a restful sleep at night are side effects of something else: stress and anxiety, which means that in order to get back on a healthy track, we need to attack the source of the problem, not only the nasty effects it causes.
Tips for Reducing Stress
Nobody enjoys feeling stressed. Sure, some stress is good—it can keep you on track, and motivate you to finish a project; but, too much and anxiety can begin to rule your life. Soon, every decision, every move you make is dictated by that built-up ball of stress in the pit of your stomach. This is not good for you physically, emotionally, and even spiritually, which is why it is so important to take immediate measures to begin dealing with and reducing your anxiety. How to do this? Here are some great tips for getting your life back:
1. Get Physical.
Virtually any form of physical exertion can act as a stress reliever. Moving the body to produce a little sweat will release endorphins and clear the mind so you can better assess that anxiety and begin to deal with it. You don’t have to be an athlete and you certainly don’t need to commit to rigorous exercise routines in order for this to work. Simple activities such as walking for twenty or thirty minutes, swimming, cycling, it really doesn’t matter what you do just as long as you are moving. Commit to one week of doing some sort of physical activity each day and see how this affects your daily stress and anxieties.
2. Develop Healthy Eating Habits.
Drinking alcohol, snacking, smoking—these are terrible ways to deal with stress (and, unfortunately, are the most commonly used). Consider this: the more you feel you are in control of your life, the less effective the stress you feel will be on your psyche and physical being. One of the first steps to controlling your life is replacing those bad habits with healthy ones. Instead of alcohol, have a healthy drink (seltzer, protein shake, etc.); rather than an unhealthy snack, eat some veggies and fruit. This will be tough at first, but once you feel the benefits it will become much easier.
3. Look on the Sunny Side.
When feeling a tinge of anxiety one of the most difficult things to do is stay positive. However, if you can approach every situation with a solution-based mindset, it makes it much harder for stress to affect you. So rather than thinking, “Oh, what am I to do?” think, “How can this issue be alleviated properly?” Sometimes you may not know what needs to be done, but at least you are heading in the right direction—and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
4. Don’t Do it Alone.
One of the first things we want to do when feeling stressed and anxious is to isolate ourselves. Keeping to the self is, however, also one of the worst things we can do when feeling this way. Remember, gaining control over any aspect of our lives helps to alleviate stress, and even though simply talking through our issues with a friend or family member might not bring us answers, it will help us better understand our situation. The act of speaking truthfully about how we feel to someone who is good at listening is priceless, as it calms the mind and strengthens our resolve.
If stress and anxiety spur the mind out of control, meditation is the perfect foil. When we meditate we quiet the mind and then open it up. The most important thing to know about meditation is it takes a while to get used to, so don’t give up after a few attempts. For those who have never, or who have rarely done it, meditating can be difficult. It can take a week of attempts only to get the mind settled down, but it’s worth it!
Take a week and carve out ten or twenty minutes to lie on a couch or sit in a comfy chair and simply be. Think of nothing, and when some stress begins to creep in shut it back out. Continue this and do not get frustrated (it takes time to build these mental muscles). Once you feel you can get into a meditative state of nothingness for a bit, begin to let your mind wander: ruminate on what your mind brings in—you might be surprised. Be mindful though, stress and anxiety will always try and creep back in, so stay focused and consider every thought. You will be amazed at the clarity and peace meditation can bring.
Doing any and all of the activities listed above will surely help your sleeping habits, but there are a few more specific things you can do that will directly affect your level of sleep. Check these out:
- Keeping a consistent sleep schedule will help with better sleep quality. Attempt to go to bed around the same time every night, and try to wake at the same time every morning. This will train your body and mind to get in the habit of shutting down and resting during these specific times each night. Even if you still struggle to fall asleep, keep it up—the rest of you will catch up.
- Try not to snack or drink anything besides water at least two-to-three hours before you go to bed. This way there is no chance of sugar or caffeine or any other stimulant keeping you from a full night’s rest.
- Another good idea is to stay off your phone (and the television if you can help it) before bed. Especially with computers and phones, our minds begin to race when prompted by the onslaught of activity these technologies provide. You are trying to wind down, not stimulate the mind.
- Lastly, make sure your bedroom is a restful environment. For some, this means soft music, a nightlight, and essential oils going; for others, it means blacking out the windows, perfect silence, and nightly prayer. Whatever spells comfort and relaxation for you, that’s what needs to be done. Get your atmosphere right if you expect to have some peaceful shuteye.
Dealing with Bruxism
While you are in the process of managing your stress, there are more immediate measures you can take to keep your teeth and jaw safe from unconscious teeth grinding, otherwise known as Bruxism. Even if you are unsure if you are suffering from bruxism, it’s worth a quick appointment with us to find out and get help if needed.
During your dental exam, we will look for any excessive wear on your teeth, any cracks or chips, or even loose teeth. Depending on what we find, we will then discuss a plan to stop you from grinding those teeth every night. Here are some possible solutions:
- Wearing a Mandibular Advancement Device. This is a method for the more serious grinders where a mouthpiece is attached to your head that keeps your jaw fixed in one position. It’s not the most comfortable solution, but it works!
- Wearing a basic mouth guard to protect the teeth while asleep. The mouth guard is perfectly molded to your teeth, and though this is a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, you will quickly get used to it.
- Wearing a splint that keeps the teeth separated. If the mouth guard is too bulky or awkward, consider the low-profile splint instead.
- Abstain from alcohol for a while. It has been proven that drinking alcohol does, at times, intensify bruxism while sleeping.
- Cut back, or cut out completely, anything with caffeine in it. The energy gained from caffeine can cause nerves and muscles to work overtime while sleeping.
- Begin using stress-management techniques. Maybe even begin some behavioral therapy, such as training yourself to hold your jaw and mouth in a single position for long periods of time.
The good news is that bruxism is treatable.
Even if you are practicing staying stress-free and nothing seems to be working, we will find a way to stop it. This is why it’s so important to visit your dentist as soon as you suspect you are grinding your teeth at night. We can assess and apply the appropriate method of treatment and make any adjustments along the way. The key thing to note is the sooner you get treatment, the healthier your teeth and mouth will be—and remain to be.