Solutions for Bruxism and Jaw Clenching

16 Oct 15

Increasingly, at my practice, I’m seeing clients with bruxism (jaw clenching / tooth grinding). We are all aware that life is busier than ever for most, juggling pressures at work with family and social lives. Most common is night time bruxism when someone is unaware they are grinding their teeth during sleep, there are of course those who clench their jaw during conscious wakeful alertness but may not even be aware they’re doing it until their jaw becomes particularly uncomfortable.

This is a serious issue, not only is it very uncomfortable, but can have a detrimental effect on the health of our teeth. Grinding the teeth wears them down and can crack fillings and worse still, crack teeth. It can impact on tension in the neck and head and cause discomfort and joint stiffness as a ‘knock on’ effect from holding the jaw too tightly. Once medical reasons have been ruled out, it’s time to explore other avenues. As a large percentage of bruxism cases are caused through anxiety this is a good place to start.

Positive results can be achieved via clinical hypnotherapy. Therapy can include helping the client to feel more relaxed, but what is very useful here is finding the causes of any anxiety or stress so the cause can be addressed and not just the symptoms. Failing this, positive suggestions targeting relaxation and coping with anxiety in general can be beneficial. Through hypnotherapy, positive suggestions can be embedded into the sub-conscious mind, thus dealing with the causes and the individuals reactions to any number of situations. Along with this, various interventions that look at how we respond through our thought processes can be discussed, providing tools to help on a conscious level. This gives the client some control and understanding of their thought processes on a cognitive level which in turn, supports the sub-conscious suggestions absorbed during hypnotherapy. Once the cause is being addressed clinical hypnotherapy can then be used to help with simply breaking the physical habit. Whilst it’s always tempting to look for a quick fix, it’s important to recognise that anxiety left unaddressed may manifest in other ways, so targeting the cause rather than the symptoms is always a good first step.

We need to break certain neural pathways and allow ourselves the opportunity to create new, more positive responses to replace old behaviours. It’s time to come off auto-pilot and take charge of feelings, responses and reactions to even the most challenging pressures life brings.

We can choose how we respond to various stimuli – something doesn’t make us anxious, our thoughts around a situation do, so once we learn consciously and sub-consciously to change those thoughts we can improve our mood and the health of our teeth.

Some people however, are unaware of there being any anxiety in their lives and find it hard to pin point a reason for their jaw clenching. These cases can still be addressed and solutions sought to bring comfort and relaxation back into the jaw, using similar techniques applied with a different approach. It’s always a good idea to be mindful of our thoughts and consider the automatic thoughts and responses a situation causes as it can be helpful and teach us a lot about ourselves to understand and address the thoughts that occur automatically.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how increasingly common this problem is and I do think we put ourselves under huge amounts of pressure in today’s society. But just making a few simple changes can make a difference to how we cope both mentally and physically with any challenges that come our way.

Midland Therapy Services work closely with Claregate Dental Practice to support the requirements of those experiencing bruxism both medically and emotionally.