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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 it is a therapy that works on the unconscious level. Stress and anxiety are often linked to teeth grinding; two issues that can also be addressed with hypnotherapy.Keep reading to learn more about how to stop teeth grinding and how hypnosis for bruxism can form part of your treatment plan.

Understanding bruxism

Bruxism affects around 8-10% of the population. Characterised by jaw clenching and teeth grinding, bruxism can lead to dental damage and jaw problems. The condition is classified in two categories - awake bruxism and sleep bruxism. Awake bruxism, as its name suggests, occurs when you are awake. Usually there is 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.

Psychological concerns such as 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.EffectsThe effects of bruxism will vary from person to person depending on the severity of the problem. There are long and short-term effects.

These include:

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)

Hypnosis for bruxism

If you suspect you are suffering from bruxism, a visit to your dentist or doctor is advised. They will be able to see if the grinding/clenching has caused any damage to your teeth. They will also discuss your treatment options.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. Around 70% of sleep bruxism cases are believed to be stress-related. Anxiety is also commonly associated with the condition. These are both issues that can be addressed through hypnotherapy.

When looking at stress and anxiety, 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.

What causes it?

In some cases the cause of bruxism is unclear. To get to the root cause, you may need 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 we have 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 in turn 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 does tend to occur during periods of wakefulness however, so this could be the culprit. Other sleep disorders such as insomnia may also occur alongside bruxism. Again, this could be due to a lack of deep sleep and increased periods of wakefulness.

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

Lifestyle factors Certain lifestyle factors can also increase your risk of grinding teeth. These include drinking alcohol excessively, using recreational drugs (such as cocaine and ecstasy), consuming too much caffeine and smoking. Making changes in your lifestyle to promote health can help enhance your treatment.

Who's affected? Teeth grinding is believed to affect six million people in the UK. It can occur in both adults and children, however it is most often noted in those aged 25 to 44. Around 20% of children under the age of 11 are reported to suffer from bruxism, although there may be more unreported cases. Research has found that children who grind their teeth are more likely to encounter issues such as stress, anxiety and hyperactivity. A strong link has also been found between bruxism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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 umbrellas:

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 physical, dental problem is to blame. If this is 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.

Therapies Getting to the route 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. 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 their teeth grinding.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.

Medications Medications aren't usually recommended as they aren't considered effective for bruxism. Some medications that can be used however include muscle relaxants and Botox injections. It is important that you take your doctor's advice when it comes to medication for this condition.

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 avoid them all together in the evening. Stimulating substances like this can cause wakefulness when you sleep, which is linked to teeth grinding. For the same reason, you should avoid consuming too much alcohol and smoking. Instill a bedtime routine and practise good sleep hygiene. This may involve receiving treatment for any sleep disorders you suffer from.

If you have a sleeping partner, ask them to let you know if they notice any grinding/clicking sounds during the night. This can help you to monitor your bruxism and seek further treatment if necessary. 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.

How to stop teeth grinding

If left untreated, this condition can lead to dental damage such as worn teeth, increased sensitivity and even loss of teeth. It can also be painful, causing jaw pain and headaches. To avoid this, it's important to look at ways to stop teeth grinding. The condition may also be your body's way of telling you that you have high stress and anxiety levels. Being stressed can affect both your mental and physical health and should be addressed.

In order to stop teeth grinding, there are several steps you'll need to take. These can include the following:

Address the cause The first step to stopping is to understand what is causing you to grind your teeth. For this, you should speak to your doctor and/or dentist. If the problem is physical (i.e. to do with the alignment of your teeth/jaw or a side-effect of a medication) your doctor will advise you on correctional solutions.If the cause is stress and anxiety, addressing this will help to stop teeth grinding.

Lead a healthy lifestyle Taking regular exercise to reduce stress, drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking can all help to prevent bruxism. Take a look at your lifestyle and think about ways you could reduce unhealthy habits and create new, healthy habits instead.

Reduce stress and anxiety As we've mentioned, stress and anxiety are often big factors when it comes to bruxism. Try to reduce your stress levels. If you are struggling with this, you may find it helpful to speak to a counsellor or hypnotherapist.

Decide on a treatment plan Speak to your doctor about your treatment options and decide together which approach would be best for you. For many sufferers, a combination of approaches works well. This may mean you use a mouth guard to protect your teeth from damage at night, while undertaking hypnosis for bruxism to change the thinking patterns leading to the behaviour.

See your dentist regularly To ensure your teeth are staying healthy and are not getting damaged, be sure to visit your dentist regularly. They will be able to look for signs of damage and can let you know if they suspect your bruxism is improving or getting worse. Seeing your dentist often will also allow them to spot any problems early, allowing them to treat them before they get worse.


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