I don’t get stressed out often–at least I don’t think I do. However, I know that things are getting out of hand when my teeth start hurting. While stress and my teeth may seem unrelated, I know that when my teeth get sore or sensitive, I am unconsciously clenching them. It’s my wake-up call to dial it back a little and take some time for myself.
1) Tooth clenching can be an unconscious reaction to stress. Many people are completely clueless that they are clenching until other symptoms arise.
2) Clenching most frequently occurs during the night, which is why so many people are unaware of their clenching habit. However, it’s possible to be a daytime clencher, too. Personally, I clench mostly while I’m sleeping, but occasionally catch myself with my teeth firmly squeezed together during the day.
3) A tight masseter muscle is the culprit in most cases of tooth clenching. It’s located above and slightly inward from the lower corner of your jaw bone. It’s also the muscle that makes chewing happen; and while tiny, it’s considered to be the strongest muscle in your body.
4) The action of clenching your teeth over long periods of time engages and can affect almost every muscle in your head and even some in your neck. As a result, a great deal of neck pain, TMJ (Temporal-mandibular joint) misalignment, ear problems, and tooth pain can be related to clenching.
5) Because so many head and neck muscles are involved in clenching, it is also a very common source of headaches. One telltale sign that this might be the case is if you are waking up with headaches, because you have been clenching and grinding your teeth all night.
6) While clenching can be the source of a whole host of symptoms, the good news is that there are a couple of things that you can do. The obvious first step is to get a handle on the stress that’s causing you to clench. You can also visit your dentist and have them make you a mouth guard that you wear at night. Doing so repositions your jaw and creates a barrier between your upper and lower teeth, which can be helpful.
7) Finally, acupuncture can be very effective for teeth clenching. Not only does it help with stress reduction, but there are also some very good acupuncture points in or near your masseter muscle and temporal-mandibular joint that can calm things down considerably. If your teeth are working overtime while you’re sleeping, consider acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a safe, effective, and drug-free fix.