Stress: you don’t just take it to heart; you take it to your teeth as well. One thing is agreed on by all the experts: tension in your personal life and around you is a major contributing factor of bruxism and TMJ. The more that the metaphorical teeth gritting in your everyday life increases, the more likely it is that you’ll grit your teeth at night for real.
Surrounding pressures play a central part. For example, during their final high school exams, teenagers would react to pressure from family, friends and other stressors with night bruxism while the pressure is still applied. As you saw inChildren’s bruxism, we recommended stress-relief techniques to reduce children’s bruxism and TMJ. Additional common examples of pressure that can cause the beginning of this phenomenon are: losing your job (creating both personal and financial pressure), bad debt, divorce, death, sickness of a loved one, and demanding work obligations.
If the stress factor could be eliminated, it is highly probable that many people’s bruxism and TMJ problems would dramatically reduce. As there is a direct connection between how severe your bruxism is and your mental stress, there are a few different possibilities for decreasing/relieving the problem.
“The best doctor for the man is himself” – while practising and experimenting, find which of the following methods and exercises improve your condition, and persist with them.
Using Your Jaw
Avoid straining your jaw by opening it too wide too often. This means not taking large bites and not shouting or yelling. Don’t use your jaw muscles more than you need to. This means not biting your fingernails, not chewing gum, toffee or beef jerky or other tough snacks, not chewing your pen, and not biting down on exceptionally hard sweets or nuts.
Start sweating! Exercising is the best way to relieve stress and tension. It is a well-known fact that exercising and playing sports makes you feel better. Improve your self esteem, increase your ability to concentrate and focus, increase your life quality and decrease your likelihood of suffering from a wide range of disorders such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer. Any physical activity is a step in the right direction, starting from a daily walk, running, swimming, aerobics, pilates, spinning, going to the gym, playing basketball, and so on.
Seeing a Therapist
If you are physically displaying signs of stress but cannot put your finger on what bothers you, one way to pinpoint the problem and learn to deal with it effectively is to chat with your doctor or a therapist. You don’t need to begin having regular counselling sessions (unless there is a major issue that you need help with). After you have figured out what is bothering you, your doctor or therapist will be able to give you a personal stress-management strategy that you can use in the future, to reduce your stress levels.
For further information on decreasing stress please read Methods and Meditation to Decrease Stress article.
1. Daley, A. (2008). Exercise and Depression: A Review of Reviews. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 15, 140–147.