how to cope with teeth grindingWhat do you do when just walking into your office causes you to clinch your teeth?

That’s what I heard from a client recently, and I knew exactly what she meant because I’d had the same problem.

When I used to live in NYC, I had a very stressful job that led me to clench my jaw and start grinding my teeth every morning when I went into the office.

If was just a matter of time before it got worse…

I brought it home and began grinding my teeth so loudly at night that it kept my wife awake.

Then I actually developed a small pop when I chewed.

This scared the heck out of me and I went to see a jaw specialist, who essentially told me to suck it up and live with it.

I felt totally trapped in my job, and I concluded that the stress was showing up in my clenched jaw.

Something had to change quickly.

Why Work Stress causes You to Grind Your Teeth

When I started researching jaw clenching and teeth grinding it turned out that there is actually a diagnosis (with a very attractive name) called Bruxism.

It’s defined as an excessive clenching together of the bottom and upper jaw accompanied by the grinding of the lower set of teeth with the upper set.

It’s often caused by stress, tension, or even unresolved anger (no surprise there).

When you grind at night, it’s called “sleep bruxism.”

It’s estimated that 45 million Americans grind their teeth (and likely a massive percentage of them working in a Corporate gig with burnout).

Regardless of the cause of your teeth grinding, chances are you won’t even realize you’re doing it until symptoms begin to show up like the soreness, popping, or your spouse calls you out for keeping them awake (see example above).

What I also found out really shocked me because apparently grinding your teeth can cause headaches and even enlarged jaw muscles.

The most devastating symptoms are those that cause pain. But often you go to a doctor, but they find nothing wrong.

Another noticeable symptom is when your back teeth start to get shorter and shorter.  What you are basically doing is grinding down the cusps, or bumps, on them, causing them to get flat and undersized.  This can cause a misalignment of your jaw that, in turn, can cause severe pain that seems inexplicable.

Yikes!

What to do about Your Teeth Grinding

So you don’t want to end up with enlarged jaws, soreness, or the dreaded jaw pop from dealing with work stress?

That’s totally understandable.

Here are 5 Strategies to Relieve Your Teeth Grinding

Disclaimer – I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice. It’s just based on my own experience of what’s worked for me and my clients.Clenching your teeth

  1. Mouth Guard – The first choice for teeth grinders is often a mouth guard which effectively keeps the grinding from happening. Believe me, this is not for everyone, and I have to admit that it can be uncomfortable.  When I started having problems I went to the store and actually bought a football mouth guard. Probably the best thing about it was the huge laugh my wife and I got when I put it in the first night.  I tried it for a few nights but it was just way too big. I’ve heard that people trim these down and they work.  The massive disadvantage is that if you wear this to the office, you will not be able to hold a conversation and everyone else will not be able to contain their laughter.
  2. Mouth Piece – This is the more refined version of the mouth guard that cost likely 100 times more.  I did not spring for this insanely expensive dental device. It might work fine but be prepared to write a big check.
  3. Take a Caffeine Vacation – If you love coffee like me, then this may not sound like much of a vacation.  But I’ve noticed that reducing your caffeine intake really helps reduce teeth grinding.  So why not give it a try and see if you wake up and finish your work day with a more relaxed jaw?
  4. Yoga – I’m a big fan of yoga. It’s really helped me relax and go through my work day in a much more peaceful disposition.  This can help relax your jaw and result in less teeth grinding.
  5. Deep Breathing – When it hits the fan at work, you’ll often notice that tensing sensation in your jaw.  When you feel the tension, take three deep breathes.  Breath in through your nose until you notice your belly rising. Then let the breath out through your mouth.  You’ll be surprised at the de-stressing impact this has on your entire body including your jaw.

Bonus Tip:  When you notice tension in your jaw when you’re trying to get to sleep, try putting your tongue between your teeth.

I’ve found this to be a helpful way to relax your jaw and reduce teeth grinding.  Of course, it takes some practice especially at night because it’s not something you do naturally when you’re falling asleep.

Your Chief Burnout Officer,

Ben

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