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Stressed? It May Take a Toll on Your Teeth: Explore an Integrative Approach to Managing Bruxism

In this article, we provide some suggested exercises for stretching the jaw muscles and reducing tension in the jaw and also, some further resources to explore to learn more about the impact of stress on oral health.

In this Article:

 

Introduction:

Stressed? Your teeth may show it. When you are stressed, your muscles tend to tighten; the same concept applies to your jaw muscles and can result in teeth grinding and/or clenching in some individuals. While grinding and clenching can occur subconsciously, there are many self-help techniques one can embrace to decrease these detrimental practices. In this article, we provide some suggested exercises for stretching the jaw muscles and reducing tension in the jaw and also, some further resources to explore to learn more about the impact of stress on oral health.

 

Self-Help Guide to Reduce Grinding and Clenching:

While mouth guards are the typical prescription given to those suffering from bruxism (problems with grinding/clenching of the teeth), there are many modalities inspired from integrative medicine that can be utilized in combination with or as an alternative to the use of mouth guards.

 

Jaw Exercises/Mindful Teeth Placement:

  • Open the mouth as wide as comfortably possible and touch tongue to front teeth. This action relaxes the jaw muscles.
  • Do not allow your top and bottom teeth to make contact except when chewing. To prevent the teeth from touching, say the letter “n” to position the tongue and keep your mouth in this position as you work to avoid clenching.

 

Self-Massage:

  • Massaging your jaw can help your jaw muscles relax and reduce the tension in this area. Additionally, holding a warm towel against your jaw can also promote muscle relaxation.

 

Personalized Nutrition:

  • Personalized nutrition involves tailoring a diet specific to your own particular needs. Individuals suffering from bruxism may benefit from decreasing the intake of caffeine and alcohol, which are substances that can augment grinding and clenching problems. Also, consuming mainly soft foods and avoiding tough/hard food items and gum chewing can help prevent overuse of your jaw muscles.

 

Relaxation Techniques:

  • For many, clenching and grinding are directly related to struggles with properly managing stress. Utilizing methods to reduce stress can be an effective way to combat bruxism. Many relaxation techniques exist, such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, deep breathing exercises, massage, progressive muscle relaxation, and much more. Learn more about these relaxation techniques in Additional Articles to Explore and Related Content below.

 

Additional Articles to Explore: 

 

By Shannon Wongvibulsin, BS Candidate, UCLA 2014
UCLA Center East-West Medicine, Staff Writer


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