Food for Thought: Bruxism and Clenching

Well, the statistics vary depending on your source; however, a large number of Americans suffer from either clenching or grinding. Yet, only 80% are aware of it.

As professionals, we are familiar with the short-term effects:

Headache – Bruxism sufferers are three times more likely to suffer from headaches.

Facial myalgia (aching jaw & facial muscles)

Ear ache

Tightness/stiffness of the shoulders

Limitation of mouth opening

Sleep disruption

Sleep disruption of bed partner due to noise

Excess tooth mobility

Inflamed & receding gums

As well as the long-term effects:

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (sometimes called TMJD or just TMJ)

Tooth wear & breakage

When it comes to causes, there are plenty of explanations such as sleep disorders, caffeine, smoking, medications, drug use, depression, anxiety and other psychological factors. Although, when you sum it all up, it all points to stress!

Now what’s a person to do besides take more medications which only work to complicate matters in the long run?!

Well, to begin with there are night guards; yet, these are designed for symptom relief AND for as effective as they are, they do not address the root of the problem… stress!

So what’s a dental professional to do? Begin by discussing the effects of stress; not just bruxism / clenching. Let them know that stress produces toxins which cause inflammation throughout the body, including the mouth. Inflammation when left untreated, leads to periodontal disease and more. Now here’s where it gets interesting because many of us jump right into how to prevent perio… DON’T go there…

Bruxims / clenching is a symptom of a systemic issue and there are ways to relieve the stress as well as restore the body to a healthier state (in no particular order):

1) yoga ~ sounds odd for a dentist to recommend; yet, yoga has been shown to reduce inflammation AND it’s incredibly relaxing

2) incorporate anti-inflammatory foods i.e. dark leafy greens, spirulina / chlorella,; foods rich in omega 3’s like olive oil, coconut oil, walnuts, hemp seeds

3) include GABA enhancing foods i.e. pumpkin seeds, brown rice and baked potatoes as well as unrefined grains for their soothing vitamin B’s

4) drink lemon water for it’s alkaline forming and cleansing abilities

5) do some DEEP breathing periodically throughout the day

6) journal about anything and everything ~ this is a dynamic way of releasing ALL the distracting and debilitating thoughts

7) exercise, dance and sing (even if it’s only in the shower) ~ dancing and singing allow us to express ourselves which is often neglected in our ‘hurry up and do more now’ schedule. By taking a little time to release the build up of tension relieves the need to release it through our jaws

8) give and get hugs

Does this sound a little bit more than you want to do with your patients? Pick and choose and take baby steps. We are in the position of saving lives and by taking the time to help someone understand that you care enough to see them feel better will make a world of difference for you, your staff and