With the fast pace, pressure and demands of our modern lifestyle, stress is no stranger to many. Effects of tension can manifest in a variety of ways both physically and emotionally. One symptom that is on the rise is teeth clenching and grinding (medically known as bruxism). It is amazing how common this disturbing and many times painful habit is. Over the last couple of years, I have experienced first hand the frustrating and what seemed unavoidable repercussions of this act, including several chipped teeth, 4 fractured molars and jaw/head pain. The standard recommendation is to wear a mouth guard while sleeping. You can be fitted for a custom one by your dentist or pick up a generic one at the pharmacy. This seems like a surface “fix” and who wants to sleep with a mouth full of rigid plastic for the rest of their life? Not me!
So I began to incorporate daily practices in effort to soothe the root cause. They are:
Becoming aware of body mechanics-furrowed foreheads, raised shoulders, clenched jaw, squinted eyes, held breath. The act of tuning in to specific body parts, checking their position and manually re-adjusting can be a great relief. The simple consciousness of “checking in” and breathing into the targeted area, allowing release, can be a profound first step in letting go of tension and stress. Many times we are unaware that we are even holding tension in our body. A night-time practice of relaxing the jaw and mouth area is especially helpful. Positioning the tongue upward with the teeth apart and the lips closed, gently moving the jaw up and down and side to side, and massaging the jaw and sides of the face and head are good habits to begin sleep.
Nutritional support is a big help. I have found excellent results incorporating a product called CALM(a calcium/magnesium supplement). Other stress busting vitamins are a good vitamin B-complex, Vitamin C and Zinc. Also, staying hydrated has been shown to decrease teeth grinding, as well as cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and refined, processed foods.
Flower Essences are a safe and natural addition when addressing the emotional side of bruxism. According to Louise Hay, the under lying issues can be pointed to anger, resentment and feelings of powerlessness. Willow, Cherry Plum and Bach’s Rescue Remedy are helpful when dealing with the above.
Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, advocates sounds for healing. I personally have found great results using this method every evening prior to bed or when I am feeling facial tightness. It works amazing! Dr. Deepak Chopra says, “Take a deep breath and make the sound while exhaling. Each sound may be repeated from one to three times. This should be done daily for optimum results.” The sounds for relaxing the jaw, helpful for clenching, migraine and tension headaches are YA, YOU, YAI. You can run through all of them a couple of times using the mentioned method.
Incorporating daily Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga and/or Brisk Waking cannot be underestimated when putting together a healthy and relaxing routine. Lower blood pressure, increased body/mind awareness, stress reduction and centeredness have all been reported by adding one of the above for as little as 20 minutes per day.
Essential oils have a profound effect on the nervous system. They heal on a holistic level, touching all aspects of the root cause; mental, emotional and physical. An effective blend(2 % dilution for daily use) is as follows:
Organic Jojoba: 1 oz.
Lavender(Lavandula angustifolia): 5 drops
Vetiver(Vetiveria zizanoides): 2 drops
Ylang Ylang(Cananga odorata): 2 drops
Marjoram(Origanum marjorana): 2 drops
Place in a cobalt or amber 1 oz. glass bottle. Gently massage around jaw line, neck and behind the ears. Apply once per evening, prior to sleep. Safe for children above 2 years of age. Avoid if low blood pressure is present.
I am a big believer of taking baby steps when incorporating new and different practices into your lifestyle. Start with one or two of the above suggestions. When you are feeling comfortable and established with the new routine, review the list again and add one or two more and so on. Before you know it, your clenching and grinding will be a thing of the past. Now that’s something to smile about!
Until next time,