When you’re stressed out, your entire body suffers. While you may be aware that you carry tension in your shoulders, it’s possible that you may also be holding tension in your jaw and grinding your teeth.
Teeth grinding can lead to headaches, jaw pain, and other nasty side effects. But meditation offers a potential way to alleviate some of these side effects while improving your overall mental health.
Why Do I Grind My Teeth?
There are several reasons why you might start grinding your teeth. And chances are, you might not even realize you’re doing it until someone points it out, or you run a Google search on why your jaw hurts all the time.
Bruxism, the fancy word for teeth grinding, is often considered a side effect of a more serious issue. Doctors say that most cases of bruxism develop from a combination of physical and psychological factors, and most people who grind their teeth grind unconsciously in their sleep.
Stress is one of the top contributors to bruxism. The more stressed you are, the more likely you are to grind.
But it’s also important to note that bruxing is also commonly seen in individuals who:
- Are competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive
- Are on certain psychiatric medications (some antidepressants can cause grinding, but that’s not a reason to stop taking your medication)
- Have a health condition such as Parkinson’s, dementia, acid reflux, epilepsy, sleep apnea, or ADHD
- Have a Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) that leads to a tense jaw and ultimately teeth grinding
Your dentist will be able to confirm whether you’re bruxing, and it’s best to see your dentist before things get out of hand. When left untreated, teeth grinding can lead to sensitive or cracked teeth.
But as you wait for your appointment day to arrive, there are some steps you can take to alleviate your grinding. One of the most effective low-cost treatments for bruxism is meditation.
Can Meditation Help Teeth Grinding?
In short, yes. For most people, saying bye-bye to bruxism involves finding stress-relieving activities. Some people turn to counseling or exercise to relax. But others find meditation to be particularly helpful.
Because stress is the most common culprit of teeth grinding, meditation can help people reduce some of the stress that contributes to bruxism. There are meditation sequences created to help people stop grinding their teeth, but you can also take advantage of generalized sessions.
Meditation is widely recognized as a great way to address bruxism because:
- It’s easy to learn, inexpensive (if not free), and doesn’t require any special equipment
- It’s a skill that can be practiced and mastered
- You can use it whenever or wherever you want
- On the whole, meditation helps people gain perspective, reduce anxiety, and increase positivity
- Research has shown that meditation can help people address chronic conditions that are aggravated by stress
- Meditation can be combined with other treatments and doesn’t come with any negative side effects
- It offers a holistic way to address an issue
Meditation has been around for centuries, and the good news is that there are many different styles and practices. You’ll be able to experiment and find techniques that work for you. And since we live in a technological era, you can find free videos on YouTube for guided meditation, or you can download one of the numerous mobile apps for meditation.
If you struggle with TMD, you can also adopt a meditation practice that works to relax your muscles so you don’t clench your jaw as much. You may find that meditating to ease your muscles before bed may prevent sleep bruxism.
Types of Meditation for Teeth Grinding
Any kind of meditation practice you adopt may help you reduce stress, but there are a couple of options for meditation that are especially effective for bruxism.
Guided mediation sessions often have a specific focus and are led by a soothing voice. Guided meditations designed to alleviate bruxism often lead you through exercises to relax your jaw, mouth, and neck.
Two options for guided meditations for teeth grinding include:
- Insight Timer’s Releasing Jaw Tension
- Audible’s Stop Grinding Your Teeth with Guided Meditation series
Sleep meditations help you fall asleep and have a restful night of sleep. Getting your beauty sleep directly contributes to your overall health. Some people use sleep meditations to unwind and drift off, and others use a “sleep cast” that plays calming music or nature sounds throughout the night to promote uninterrupted sleep.
Outside of YouTube, options for sleep meditations include:
- Sleep meditations on the Buddhify App
- Meditations, sleep casts, and soundscapes with Slumber
- Sleep casts by Headspace
How Does Meditation Help with Teeth Grinding?
If you’re still skeptical, we understand. But science has demonstrated that meditation really can help you stop grinding your teeth. A study conducted by Harvard in 2011 showed that eight weeks of meditation was enough to lead to physical changes in the brain. The brain area for learning and memory grew in volume, while the area for fear, anxiety, and stress lost volume.
Meditation is effective because it connects our conscious and subconscious minds by tuning out the chatter that overwhelms our senses. When you’re able to quiet your mind, you can focus on reducing tension in the places where you carry stress.
The best thing you can do is have an open mind when trying a meditation practice. (Pun intended.) You might be asked to tense and relax your jaw, face, neck, shoulders, or back muscles; you may practice deep breathing and massage your face and neck muscles. Just give it a fair chance, no matter how silly you feel.
And keep in mind that change won’t magically happen overnight. You should still see your dentist and consider investing in a custom nightguard to create a buffer between your teeth to prevent grinding.
We hope you find your inner Zen and work toward saying goodbye to grinding for good.