Chomping your teeth together or involuntarily grinding them is a recognised medical condition known as bruxism, with symptoms often appearing while the sufferer is asleep.
Not much is known about bruxism, with medical professionals unable to pinpoint the underlying cause, but stress and anxiety can act as a trigger. Other possible influences include alcohol, tobacco, drugs and certain medications.
Biting, chomping or grinding your teeth involuntarily may not seem like a major problem but in reality, the consequences can be quite severe.
Some of the problems that bruxism can cause includes:
- inflamed muscles in the jaw area
- complications with the temporomandibular joint
- dental fractures
- sleep disorders
- premature tooth erosion
- loss of the enamel on the teeth
- excessive dental sensitivity
- hypertrophy of the muscles used for chewing (masseters).
The difficulty with treating bruxism is that it occurs on an unconscious level while the sufferer is asleep. Nevertheless, there are some steps which can be taken to help reduce the nasty effects which bruxism can cause.
Mouth guards are one of the most effective treatments available for bruxism; these protect the teeth from the pressure that is exerted during the night.
Massages have also proved to be beneficial for some individuals, specifically in the neck, shoulder and jaw areas.
However, prevention is really the key to treating bruxism most effectively and this means reducing stress and anxiety.
There are a number of different ways to help bruxism, all of which take a different naturopathic approach. Here’s some suggestions about how to alleviate stress and anxiety without resorting to medication.
There are a number of different herbs renowned to help provide a calming effect. These are:
- Boldo. Use 2.5g of dried boldo leaves with 100ml of water to create an infusion. Use before going to bed. Do not use this remedy if you are taking any other medications and refrain from using it for longer than 4 weeks.
- Chamomile. Famous for its relaxing qualities, use a tablespoon of dried chamomile flowers to create an infusion to be drunk before bed. Refrain from consuming during pregnancy.
- Valerian. Another well known natural remedy, use the root of this plant to create an infusion. 15g of the root will be required and the mixture should be left overnight to reach full strength. Refrain from drinking during both breastfeeding and pregnancy. It should also be kept out of reach of young children.
- Lemon balm. Create an infusion by soaking a pinch of dried leaves in a glass of water for 15 minutes. Drink one glass three times a day for the best results.
- Marjoram. Create an infusion by soaking a pinch of dried marjoram leaves in a glass of water for 30 minutes. Drink one glass three times a day for the best results.
A bath is a great way to relax and soak away the stresses of the day. If you add some natural plant extracts, you could amplify the effects even further. Why not try:
- Sage. Create an infusion by adding three tablespoons of this dried herb to a litre of water. Once ready, pour into your bath water and relax in it for 15-20 minutes. Do not exceed the recommended time.
- Thyme. For a more leisurely bath, add an infusion of thyme flowers and lie back and relax.
A warm compress can provide relief to a sore and aching jaw and can encourage the whole area to loosen up and relax.
Dampen a towel using warm water, making sure the temperature is comfortable. Wring out the excess water and then cover the bottom of the face on both sides with the towel. The moist warmth will encourage muscles to unclench and relax.
A dose of music that you like is the perfect way to unwind. Whether it’s a stirring piece to awaken the mind, or a soothing composition to help you chill out, music has been proven to have a significant influence on mood.
The most important thing is to provide protection to the teeth, as it’s the enamel which can suffer the most damage as a result of the grinding. Calcium can help to protect the teeth and this can be found in higher quantities in certain foods.
- Legumes such as white beans, soy, lentils and garbanzos.
- Seafood, fish and crustaceans
- Milk and milk products, eggs
- Vegetables, in particular broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress, onions and thistle.
If your jaw is sore or painful, try to avoid eating hard fruits as they could worsen your symptoms.
Improving your state of mind and general attitude will help reduce anxiety levels and could help to eliminate your brutism. Learn deep breathing techniques and shrug off any concerns which don’t really matter.
Carry out some relaxation sessions before bedtime and also drink a glass of warm milk before you settle down to sleep.
Remember, if you sleep alone you may be suffering from bruxism without realising it. If you ever awaken with a painful jaw for no obvious reason, you should seek professional advice.