Clenching your jaw can cause headaches, tooth damage, and other problems. The habit may occur during daytime or nighttime hours, but correcting it usually requires mindful retraining of the jaw and reduction of any underlying stress responsible for the problem. Home treatment works in most cases, but professional medical care might be necessary in others.
(Don't worry, you can do this)
Correcting the Habit
Apply a warm compress. Soak a clean washcloth in hot water. Wring out the excess, then hold the moist cloth over the tensed or pained portion of your jaw for 10 minutes.
- Perform this procedure as soon as you notice tension or pain in your jaw. You can also repeat the procedure immediately before known times of high stress to help prevent tension before it builds.
- The warmth should relax the muscles in your jaw and help them loosen up. A relaxed jaw is less likely to tense up and begin clenching again.
Massage the jaw. Use your fingers to gently massage the affected muscles. Apply firm yet gentle pressure to the tensed portion of your jaw, then work around the entire jaw and mouth area with small, circular motions.
- It's best to perform this exercise before you have the opportunity to clench your jaw, but you can also repeat it after you notice jaw tension or pain.
- Massaging the affected area can release tension in the muscles of your jaw. Once the muscles have relaxed and loosened up, you'll naturally be less inclined to clench them.
Practice proper jaw placement. If jaw clenching has become a chronic problem, you've likely trained yourself to hold your jaw improperly at a subconscious level. Practicing proper jaw placement every few hours throughout the day can re-train your brain and muscles.
- When you close your lips, a slight gap between your upper and lower teeth should still remain.
- Place the tip of your tongue in between your front teeth. Hold it there for at least five minutes. During this time, your jaw muscles should relax and reset to a more natural position.
- If this simple correction doesn't feel comfortable or helpful, you may need to ask your dentist to show you the best position for your jaw. Memorize the way it feels and take pictures of the way it looks. Consult those pictures later while practicing the same placement in front of a mirror.
Take the right dietary supplements. In particular, you should increase your intake of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Having adequate amounts of these nutrients can help regulate muscle activity, including muscle activity in the jaw.
- You can increase your intake of these nutrients through diet or by taking daily nutritional supplements.
- If you choose to take nutritional supplements, know that you should take one part magnesium for every two parts calcium. For instance, you might take 600 mg of calcium and 300 mg of magnesium. The amount of vitamin C should be determined independently; an adequate daily dose is 90 mg daily.
- Repeat your nutrient ritual daily for at least two months before determining if it has or hasn't been helpful.
Dealing with Stress (truly the most helpful consideration)
Identify stress triggers. Stress can cause you to clench your jaw during daytime and nighttime hours. While stress is unavoidable, you can figure out ways of dealing with causes of stress once you identify them.
- Consider keeping a journal to help track your causes of stress. Make a note of any incident that causes anxiety, even if it seems mild, and pay special attention to causes of stress that occur immediately before or during daytime incidents of jaw clenching.
- Avoid any stress triggers that can be eliminated. For triggers that cannot be eliminated, balance them out with behaviors that help relax your mind. For instance, you might listen to soothing music, indulge in a warm bubble bath, meditate, or ease your mind with aromatherapy.
Regulate your sleep cycle. Following a regular sleep pattern should improve your quality of sleep, which may reduce jaw clenching at night. Getting eight hours of good, quality sleep each night can also reduce your overall stress, and that may make it easier to quit clenching your jaw during the day, too.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, regardless of your schedule. Try to schedule a full eight hours of sleep in between.
- In addition to increasing the amount of sleep you get, you should also try to improve the quality of sleep. Try to completely relax your body and mind before going to bed. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, since both can alter the body's sleep cycle. Sleep at comfortable, slightly cool temperatures, and turn off all bright lights and sources of irregular noise.
Exercise. Regular exercise can relieve stress while regulating your mood and immune system. As a result, the tension causing your jaw clenching should lessen, and the muscles in your jaw should become stronger and more elastic.
- You don't need to perform strenuous exercise to gain these benefits. Try walking at a slow to moderate pace for 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. Make this a regular part of your routine for at least two months, if not permanently.
Seeking Professional Medical Help
Schedule appointments with your dentist and your doctor. Jaw clenching is often a multifaceted problem that involves both physical and mental factors. A qualified dentist should be able to treat the oral components of the problem, but you'll need to talk with a general physician to determine a treatment plan for any other factors.
Invest in dental splints. Both mouth guards and dental splits can keep teeth separated and protect them against the sort of damage caused by jaw clenching. While more expensive, dental splits are better than over-the-counter mouth guards.
- Mouth guards are generally made of hard plastic. You'll still feel pain caused by clenching the jaw, and that pain may worsen the underlying tension.
- Dental splints are made from soft acrylic and fitted to the shape of your mouth. They won't stop your jaw from clenching, but they should reduce the associated pain and may prevent the tension in your jaw from worsening.
- Note that both mouth guards and splints are generally reserved for nighttime treatment, but in extreme cases when daytime clenching is an issue, you can wear the equipment during daytime hours.
Correct misaligned teeth. If your teeth are damaged or otherwise misaligned, they may contribute to your jaw clenching problem. Consult with your dentist to determine the best way to fix the underlying issue.
- Braces may help correct severely misaligned teeth. In some cases, however, your dentist may recommend strategically placed crowns to fix the problem.
- If you have a damaged tooth, rebuilding that tooth can help restore the proper alignment of your teeth.
Seek professional therapy. There are different types of therapy that may help correct jaw clenching, but the most common are biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Biofeedback is a type of physical therapy. During the procedure, the doctor will examine the way you hold and control your jaw through specialized monitoring equipment. The doctor can use the same equipment to help train and regulate muscle activity in your jaw.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy treats the psychological component behind jaw clenching. By talking with a trained psychologist or counselor, you can change the way you approach stress and react to it, which may lead to decreased anxiety.
Try acupuncture. Talk with a professional acupuncturist about regular treatments that can reduce jaw pain and tension. While there's very little scientific evidence to suggest the effectiveness of acupuncture, it stands as a popular form of alternative medicine.
- Similarly, you could also learn about professional acupressure treatments. Acupuncture uses strategically placed needles to control pain in the body, but acupressure applies firm pressure to strategic points, instead.
Learn about muscle relaxants. Muscle relaxants can relax the muscles in your jaw, which should help prevent your jaw from clenching. You can ask your doctor about both oral relaxants and injected relaxants.
- Oral muscle relaxants must be prescribed by a doctor, and you should only take them for short periods to avoid dependency. These medications relax your entire body's immune response. They may make you drowsy, so you should take them before bedtime.
- OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) treatments are injected directly into the affected area and only relax the surrounding the jaw muscles. These treatments last for prolonged periods but are usually prescribed only as a last resort.
Examine your medications. If you're currently taking long-term prescription medications and you didn't clench your jaw before you began treatment, ask your doctor if your jaw clenching habits could be a side effect of the medication.
- If medications are causing the problem, your doctor may prescribe a different medication to help eliminate the jaw clenching.
- While there are different types of medications that can cause jaw clenching, some of the most common culprits include antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
- Note that alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs can also cause jaw clenching and should be eliminated.
This article originally appeared on wikihow.com
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