Even if you’re taking great care of your teeth, you may be missing an important piece in the puzzle of dental wellness and overall health: regular relaxation. Many of our patients are surprised to hear that chronic stress and tension can cause dental problems, like teeth clenching, jaw pain and tightness (or TMJ dysfunction), weakened enamel, and an increased risk for infection. If you know you clench and/or grind your teeth while you sleep, invest in a custom-fitted nightguard to help protect your teeth from damage. Moreover, practice regular relaxation throughout your day to reduce your stress. Here are just a few ways we recommend calming your mind and body:
1. Talk or Write It Out
Many people turn to talk therapy to help them with stress. This is a great resource if you have access to it. But even talking about the stressful events of your day to a friend or loved one will help get it out of your mind and thus protect your jaw from stress-induced teeth clenching. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your innermost feelings and concerns with another person, try keeping a journal using your computer, phone, a physical notebook, or a voice recording.
2. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise helps to calm nerves, soothe stress, and reduce anxiety. The release of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline during a workout can lead to feelings of well-being. It can also improve your confidence and your sleep quality. Find something you enjoy, be it brisk walking, running, swimming, dancing, kickboxing, lifting weights, practicing yoga, or something else more your style!
3. Stick to a Bedtime Routine
Many Americans work more from their handheld devices and laptops than at an office, and some of us are working up until the moment our eyes shut at night. However, this is not a calming way to end the day. Try putting away your electronic devices at least an hour before bed and do something simple to unwind. Your bedtime routine could include reading a book, taking a nice long bath, drinking herbal tea, or writing in a gratitude journal.
4. Take Deep Breaths
When we feel stressed, we find ourselves in a “flight or fight” mode. Studies have shown that deep breathing can switch on the parasympathetic nervous system’s response, or the “rest and digest” mode. Sit in a quiet, comfortable place and focus on your breathing. Inhale deeply and exhale deeply. Count the lengths of your breaths and try to increase the duration each time. You might be surprised to find how calming this is!
5. Press Pause
Meditation, contemplation, or prayer are excellent ways to ease stress and clear the mind. Turn off all devices, play some soft nature music, and give yourself at least five minutes of quiet time first thing in the morning and/or at bedtime. Combine this with the breathing techniques for an added boost.
Your Health Is Our Priority!
Follow these relaxation tips to calm your mind, body, and spirit, and ease tension on your jaw and teeth. Our Cary Family Dental team cares not only about your oral health, but about your overall health and well-being. We love seeing our patients happy, confident, and able to manage their stress. Contact us for additional information about how to protect your teeth from damage.