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How to Stop Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth

How to Stop Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth

Stress, including anxiety, anger, and frustration, has many effects on your physical body and on your sleep, especially if it is suppressed.

You may not even be aware of some of its effects. Teeth-clenching and grinding are two of them.

The following signs may be your only clue that you are doing it, unless you grind your teeth and have a sleep-partner who can hear it.

Symptoms of Clenching and/or Grinding

  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and jaw pain
  • Neck pain
  • Chronic headaches
  • Earaches or ringing in the ears
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Gum recession
  • Weakening, grinding down and/or chipping of teeth
  • Disrupted or lack of sleep

You can get fitted for a mouth guard at your dentist’s office, which may be costly and uncomfortable, but it is a quick fix for nighttime. Or you can replace the habit — a better choice especially if you’re doing it while you are awake as well.

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What to Do

  1. The normal at-rest position for the mouth (and the yogic position as well) is:
    • Lips closed
    • Teeth slightly apart
    • Tongue-tip elevated to the alveolar ridge (the bump behind your upper teeth) or the blade elevated with the tip behind or between the teeth.

This position will lessen the tension on the TMJ and the massiter muscle.

I retrained myself about five years ago and I rarely catch myself clenching anymore. When I do, it’s as simple as changing my positioning.

Eventually, my tongue slid forward so the tip now sits behind my teeth and more of the blade is between my back teeth. If it is more comfortable there, who am I to argue as long as my teeth are still parted?

  1. Awareness is the key to change.

If you start increasing your awareness of your at-rest mouth position during the day and changing it to the normal position, it will be easier at night.

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  1. Preparing for Sleep.

When you are getting ready to go to sleep, check your positioning.

At the beginning, I often had to place my tongue between my teeth to retrain my jaw to remain open. I was a ‘clencher’ who was able to make the conscious change permanent but it took time, awareness, and focused attention. It took remembering and knowing I was worth it! My mouth now remains in normal at-rest position, both day and night, generally without ever thinking about it.

  1. Relieving Pain

If you are experiencing any pain associated with clenching and grinding your teeth, including headaches, try the ‘screaming stretch’ until you have reprogrammed your at-rest mouth position.

The ‘screaming stretch’ is performed by opening the mouth as wide as you can while sticking out your tongue (this can be performed with or without screaming!).

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Hold that position for approximately thirty seconds.

Perform as many times a day as you feel pain or just to prevent it. This position stretches the massiter muscle and flexes the TMJ.

Retraining you mouth position could still help alleviate the symptoms, even if your clenching or grinding is caused by:

  • Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion) –please see your dentist.
  • Complications resulting from a neurological disorder.
  • Side effects of some psychiatric medications.

I wish I had documented how long it took me to reposition, but since I didn’t, the best advice I can offer you is: give it time and plenty of attention.

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You will be able to affect a permanent change that will eliminate the headaches and all the other pains caused by clenching or grinding, and improve the quality of your sleep. It will also prevent any further damage to your teeth and gums.

Don’t these sound like goals worthy of your time and attention? Not to mention the money you can save on pain medication and dental care.

So, take the steps to stop clenching and grinding your teeth today!

More by this author

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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