One of the most common responses people have to stress is clenching or grinding teeth, known as bruxism. Bruxism is very damaging to your teeth. Over time it wears away the enamel of your teeth. It can even cause your teeth to crack!
You may brux while you’re awake, or you may be grinding your teeth in your sleep. If you’re grinding during the day, you may notice the habit or others may point it out. At night, a cosleeper might point out the grinding sound or you may just wake up with jaw pain or headaches.
Here are some tips to help you keep stress down this holiday season and avoid damaging your teeth.
Make a Flexible Plan
It’s good to have a plan to deal with all the stressors you’re going to face this year. Many of these are predictable: traditional celebrations come with traditional problems, the same people bring the same issues every year, and, of course, you are also still bothered by the same things as last year. Come up with ways to deal with these expected stresses, and you won’t be as affected by them.
But make sure your plan doesn’t become a stressor of its own. Trying to keep everybody “on script” can drive you crazy. Use your plan to help reduce stress, but also accept that things don’t always go according to plan.
Try Something Different
As we noted above, many traditional activities cause you to hit the same walls year after year. Why not sidestep problems this year by doing something different? Try ordering a dinner in if cooking is your main stressor or use a name draw or white elephant exchange to reduce shopping stress.
Maintain Your Routine
With all the different activities going on, it can be hard to keep doing the things you do all the time that help you feel happy and healthy. Sleep suffers, exercise routines suffer, and your diet changes for the worse. As much as you can, try to maintain these routines so you don’t feel as much stress.
Beware of Stimulants
Holiday stress is often worsened because we tend to consume a lot more stimulants than normal. The primary culprits are caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine in coffee, tea, and chocolate might help you keep going, but it can also increase jaw clenching. Most people think of alcohol as a relaxant, but it’s actually both a relaxant and a stimulant, which means that it increases the impact of all the caffeine you’re consuming, especially if you consume it shortly before bed.
If You’re Still Dealing with Bruxism
But for many people with bruxism, the problem isn’t just stress–though that may make it more acute and severe. If you are keeping your stress down, but you’re still clenching and grinding your teeth, you may need additional treatment for related conditions like TMJ.
And if your teeth have suffered significant damage as a result of bruxism, reconstructive dentistry may be necessary to help restore your smile to its healthy condition.
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