The expression “grit your teeth” comes from something we all do: Clenching our jaws involuntarily when some maniac cuts you off in traffic, a dog doing its business on your front lawn (again), or any other stressful situation.
Did you know that stress-related teeth grinding often carries over into your sleep? If you wake up with a dull headache or a tense jaw, there’s a good chance the condition known as bruxism, which affects as many as 20% of adults, is to blame. The physical tension caused by daily stressors is often based in your jaw and neck, and is released by “night grinding.” Better to release the stress, right? Well, not quite:
Why teeth grinding hurts
Grinding your teeth in your sleep can damage tooth enamel and gum recession making your pearly whites more sensitive (enough to make a grown man cringe), and can even cause a painful inflammation of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles.
Avoid the grind with powerful stress-busters
Drug stores and dentists offer a variety of mouth guards that relax your jaw and help prevent grinding. Cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evening, has also been shown to help. However, the best approach is to tackle the root cause: Stress.
Unreasonable bosses, fussy family members, rush-hour commutes, noisy neighbours — these are facts of life, and when stress happens our bodies instinctively defend themselves by tensing up. The key is managing stress with one or more of these four tools:
Practice deep breathing: Clear your mind, get settled in bed and feel more relaxed than ever by taking a big deep breath. Try it right now: Breath in slowly through your nose filling your lungs as deep as possible, exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat four times.
Get some activity: Exercise is one of the most effective stress relievers and also makes you feel better overall. Remember any amount is better than none. If you’re lacking motivation, one of these 6 hacks will help you to get going.
Do something you enjoy: Taking time to focus on a hobby or one of life’s pleasures will make stress fade into the background. Guys are good at taking care of others; remember to take care of yourself now and then.
Get a solid sleep: Feeling tired can hinder your ability to respond to stressful situations. Be at your best by getting the proper rest. Better yet, here’s ten ways to sleep better than a dog!
Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. He’s been covering men’s health for over 20 years. As well as researching and blogging for Don’t Change Much since 2015, Adam’s award-winning work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and National Post newspapers.