Jaw clenching, also known as bruxism, is a common condition in which a person unconsciously grinds or clenches their teeth. People can experience jaw clenching during the day and also while they’re asleep at night, causing a variety of symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches, and tooth damage.
What Causes Jaw Clenching?
There are several potential causes of jaw clenching. Sometimes jaw clenching is the result of intense focus: when you’re concentrating on a task, you may clench your jaw without even realizing it. People who are under a lot of stress or anxiety may experience jaw clenching as a result of the muscle tension that accompanies these emotions, clenching their jaws as a way to release tension. Others experience anxiety-related jaw clenching at night, grinding their teeth while they sleep. Certain medications such as antidepressants, can also cause jaw clenching as a side effect.
How To Relax Your Jaw If You Suffer From Jaw Clenching
Relaxing the jaw helps reduce tension and stress in the body. When you are stressed or anxious, you may often find yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, which can lead to tension in the jaw and the surrounding muscles. This tension can cause headaches, neck pain, and jaw pain, which can further contribute to stress and anxiety.
Exercises to Reduce Jaw Clenching
One of the best ways to relax the jaw is through jaw exercises and stretches. Here are some exercises that can help to relax the jaw and reduce tension:
- Lip Trills: Lip trills are a simple exercise that can help to relax the jaw. To do a lip trill, take a deep breath in and then exhale while making a “brrr” sound. Repeat this several times, focusing on relaxing the jaw and allowing the sound to come from the lips rather than the jaw.
- Tongue Stretches: Tongue stretches can help to relax the jaw and release tension in the muscles. To do a tongue stretch, stick out your tongue and point it towards the ceiling. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat this several times, focusing on relaxing the jaw and tongue.
- Jaw Stretches: Jaw stretches can help to release tension in the jaw and surrounding muscles. To do a jaw stretch, place your fingers on the jaw and gently open your mouth as wide as you can. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat this several times, focusing on relaxing the jaw and the surrounding muscles.
- Neck Stretches: Tension in the jaw can often be related to tension in the neck. Neck stretches can help to release tension in the neck and jaw. To do a neck stretch, tilt your head to one side and hold for a few seconds. Then tilt your head to the other side and hold for a few seconds. Repeat this several times, focusing on relaxing the jaw and the neck.
In addition to exercises and stretches, there are other strategies that can help to relax the jaw.
Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Jaw Clenching
If your jaw clenching is anxiety-related, relaxation therapy may help you reduce stress and anxiety. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, and tai chi can help to reduce stress and tension in the body. These techniques can help to improve relaxation and reduce muscle tension.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices can help to reduce stress and tension in the body. When we are mindful, we are present in the moment and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. By focusing on the present, we can reduce the tendency to clench or grind our teeth.
- Deep Breathing: Deep breathing can help to reduce stress and tension in the body. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. By taking slow, deep breaths, we can activate the body’s relaxation response and reduce tension in the jaw.
- Remind Yourself to Relax Your Jaw: If you experience jaw clenching primarily during the day, whether due to stress or as a side-effect of concentration, reminding yourself to relax your jaw with a post-it that reads, “Unclench your jaw!” may be enough for you to ward off symptoms. Other techniques to avoid the unpleasant side effects of jaw clenching include developing the habit to keep your mouth slightly open, or resting your tongue between your teeth when you are going to be intensely focused on a task.
Proper Posture Can Reduce Jaw Clenching
Proper posture can help to reduce tension in the jaw and surrounding muscles. When we slouch or hunch forward, we can put extra strain on the jaw and neck muscles. By sitting up straight and keeping the head in a neutral position, we can reduce tension in the jaw and surrounding muscles.
Get Enough Sleep to Reduce Jaw Clenching:
Adequate sleep is important for overall well-being and it can also help to reduce tension in the jaw. When we are sleep-deprived, we are more likely to clench or grind our teeth. By getting enough sleep, we can reduce tension in the jaw and improve overall well-being.
It’s important to note that chronic jaw tension or pain should be evaluated by a dentist or doctor. They may recommend specific treatment such as physical therapy, or in some cases, a night guard to wear while sleeping.
Avoid Certain Foods May Reduce Jaw Clenching
Additionally, for some people, avoiding food and drinks that contain caffeine, as well as alcohol and nicotine, can help to reduce jaw clenching.
When To Call Your Doctor About Jaw Clenching
Jaw clenching is not a life-threatening condition, but it can be uncomfortable and can cause damage to the teeth. If you are experiencing symptoms of jaw clenching, talk to your dentist or healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for you.
The most common treatment is a dental splint, which is a device that is worn in the mouth to prevent the teeth from grinding together. This can help to reduce the symptoms of jaw clenching and protect the teeth from damage.
Some people may need to see a dentist or a physical therapist to help them learn how to properly relax the jaw muscles and reduce the risk of jaw clenching.
You should also check in with your doctor as a first step if you think your jaw clenching may be caused by medication, in which case switching to a different medication may be a treatment option.
For more topics related to health and wellness, follow along with our Hospitality Health ER blog! We’ve recently covered related topics in Burnout at the Workplace and Hacks For Combatting Eyestrain. For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram.