Bruxism (teeth grinding)

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and clenching of the jaw. Most people will grind their teeth to a degree, without any symptoms or complications. When the grinding becomes persistent, however, it can lead to dental damage, headaches and earache.

The teeth grinding action that occurs with bruxism is unconscious. This is why hypnosis for bruxism can be effective, as the therapy works on an unconscious level. Stress and anxiety are often linked to teeth grinding; two issues that can also be addressed with hypnotherapy.

Here we look into how to stop teeth grinding and how hypnosis for bruxism can form part of your treatment plan.

What is bruxism?

Characterised by jaw clenching and teeth grinding, bruxism can lead to dental damage and jaw problems. Thought to affect around 8-10% of the population, the condition is classified into two categories - awake bruxism and sleep bruxism.

Awake bruxism, as its name suggests, happens when you’re awake. Usually, there’s no teeth grinding, just jaw clenching in response to certain stimuli. Sleep bruxism happens when you are asleep and generally involves both grinding and jaw muscle contractions.

The condition is then further broken down into primary and secondary bruxism. The primary type occurs without any prior medical condition, while the secondary type takes place when another medical or psychiatric condition is present. Secondary bruxism, for example, can be associated with medications, recreational drugs and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

Stress and anxiety are known to exacerbate teeth grinding during sleep. The condition has also been linked to sleep disorders as it tends to occur during periods of wakefulness.

The effects of bruxism will vary from person to person depending on the severity of the problem. There are long and short-term effects including the following:

Short-term effects:

  • earache
  • headaches
  • facial myalgia (aching jaw and facial muscles)
  • sleep disruption
  • limitation of mouth opening
  • inflamed/receding gums
  • excess tooth mobility

Long-term effects:

  • tooth wear and breakage
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

What causes bruxism?

In some cases the cause of bruxism is unclear. To get to the root cause, it’s helpful to visit your doctor to assess your symptoms and any factors which may be contributing. Take a look below for common causes:

Stress and anxiety

As previously mentioned, most cases of sleep bruxism are thought to be caused by stress and/or anxiety. Many people say their grinding increases when they are stressed. This could be the body's way of processing increased stress levels and tension. Reducing stress, encouraging relaxation and easing anxiety can all help to stop teeth grinding.

Sleep apnoea

There is also a link between teeth grinding and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). This is a disorder that causes your breathing to be interrupted during sleep. The link between the two conditions isn't fully understood. Teeth grinding often takes place during periods of wakefulness, however, so this could be the culprit.

Other sleep disorders such as insomnia may also be present alongside bruxism. Again, this could be due to a lack of deep sleep and increased periods of wakefulness.

Man sleeping on sofa with book over face

Certain medications

Some medications, including antipsychotic and antidepressant medications, are known to cause teeth grinding. If you are concerned about any side effects of the medication you're taking, you are advised to speak to your doctor.   

Lifestyle factors

Certain lifestyle factors can also increase your risk of teeth grinding. These include drinking alcohol excessively, using recreational drugs, consuming too much caffeine and smoking. Making changes in your lifestyle to promote health can give your bruxism treatment the best chances for success.

Your treatment plan

If your dentist or doctor has diagnosed you with the condition, there are several approaches you can try in terms of treatment. These generally fall under the following categories:

Dental approaches

In order to protect your teeth from damage, your doctor may suggest dental treatments such as mouth guards or dental correction.

Splints and mouth guards are designed to keep your upper and lower jaw away from each other and prevent damage caused by grinding/clenching. In some cases, a dental problem is to blame. If this applies to you and your case is severe, your dentist may need to correct the problem with oral surgery. If teeth grinding has affected your teeth badly, you may need crowns fitted or reshaping treatments.

Lifestyle changes

Ensuring you are living a healthy lifestyle can enhance your bruxism treatment. Try to incorporate relaxation into your everyday routine. Exercise is a great way to lower stress levels and promote relaxation.

Lower your intake of caffeine and sugar and try to avoid them in the evening. Stimulating substances like this can cause wakefulness when you sleep, which is linked to teeth grinding. 

Instil a bedtime routine and practise good sleep hygiene. This may involve receiving treatment for any sleep disorders you suffer from. Ensure you see your dentist regularly to keep your teeth and jaw healthy. Dental exams will reveal whether or not your bruxism is causing physical damage. Spotting any issues early will help to avoid any drastic correctional treatment.

Man smiling

Therapies

Getting to the root cause of the condition may require a therapeutic approach. If stress is causing your teeth grinding, relaxation therapies are recommended. Behavioural therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) work to change your habits.

Biofeedback is another form of therapy that can be used for bruxism. Using monitoring procedures and equipment, this teaches you to control the muscle activity in your jaw.

Hypnosis for bruxism helps to change your thought patterns and thus your habit. As hypnotherapy puts you into a deeply relaxed state, it is also used to help lower stress and anxiety. For many, this eliminates the cause of teeth grinding.

Hypnotherapy for bruxism

As part of your treatment plan, you may want to explore hypnosis for bruxism. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching happen unconsciously, whether you're awake or asleep. As the action is controlled by your unconscious. Hypnotherapy (a therapy that works with the unconscious mind) can use the power of suggestion to help change thought patterns that lead to bruxism.

Hypnosis puts you into a deeply relaxed state. When you are in this state, your unconscious is open to suggestion and re-patterning. Using hypnotherapy techniques, the thought patterns that lead to teeth grinding can be interrupted. Then, using suggestive language, your hypnotherapist can encourage new (more beneficial) thought patterns. 

Lots of positive reinforcement and the suggestion of deep and uninterrupted sleep will enable the client to feel less stressed so they will be less likely to clench and unlikely to get to the grind stage.

- Read more of ‘Bruxism’.

According to The Bruxism Association, around 70% of sleep bruxism cases are stress-related. When looking at stress, hypnotherapy can help you get to the root cause. It also supports the development of more positive coping methods, so that your mind reacts better in stressful situations. As teeth grinding can often be a reaction to stress and anxiety, using hypnosis for stress may reduce bruxism as a result. 

Many teeth grinders come to anticipate the problem. This means they think about it or worry about it in advance. Through hypnotherapy, your mind can be programmed to anticipate a good night's sleep with a relaxed jaw instead. This may sound simple, but subtle shifts in thinking like this can lead to great results.

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