Bruxism and self-care: “I grind my teeth when I’m stressed – this bedtime routine calms me down”

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Stylist’s senior beauty writer has struggled with teeth grinding for years. Here, she talks through the steps she takes to minimise it.

I grind my teeth. A lot. Most mornings, I’ll wake up with a locked jaw and sore cheeks from all of the clenching and teeth grinding I do in my sleep. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for almost five years now – and recently, it’s gotten even worse.

I’m not surprised, though. According to the NHS, teeth grinding and jaw clenching – also known as bruxism – is often related to stress and anxiety. And in today’s current climate, I – like many others – am feeling more stressed than usual.

Alongside a locked jaw, teeth grinding can lead to general facial pain, headaches, earache, worn-down teeth and disturbed sleep. Though the hardest thing about bruxism? It’s hard to realise when you’re doing it.

“Clenching or grinding of teeth is called ‘parafunction’ and is a deeply subconscious action, created by the brain’s pattern generators,” explains Dr Mark Hughes, Cosmetic Dentist & Co-Founder of DEFINE Clinic. “It is impossible to stop completely but it is possible to reduce the activity in the muscles of mastication and/or reduce the effects of the excessive activity. So, relaxation and stress-relieving activities such as massage, yoga, and meditation often help, as does some physiotherapy.”

Over the years,I’ve tried lots of things to protect my teeth and make myself more aware of the action, but to no avail. So, I decided to focus my attention on de-stressing and relaxing before sleep – and it’s really helped.

I begin by taking three deep breaths. I know this sounds weird when you read it, but it’s important to relax your facial muscles as much as possible. I’ve recently been following Yoga with Adriene’s YouTube videos (I usually do these in the afternoon) and noticed that sometimes just sitting and taking a moment to inhale and exhale properly can make a world of difference. 

Thanks to poor posture, I take very shallow breaths and find myself holding a lot of tension in my shoulders, which then causes me to clench my jaw. When I take these three deep breaths, I also try to make myself aware of any tension I’m holding in my forehead and eyebrows. Some days, I find it harder to switch off so I use the Headspace app for a quick guided-breathing session.

Next, I spritz a face mist around me. At the moment, I’ve been using Disciple’s Juicy Mist, £15. It contains zingy orange blossom which, yes, does work to to make you feel more awake (and may seem counter-productive before bed), but I find the scent so incredibly relaxing. This feels even more relaxing if you have a warm drink to sip at the same time.

Now, I wish I could say that I was the kind of person that started my nighttime routine with a no-screens policy, but I can’t help it. I see TV as part of my wind-down time as I don’t watch anything during the day – but I make sure I’m using my Netflix time effectively.

I pop on something uplifting, like Brooklyn 99, and slather my face in facial oil – I really love Biossance’s 100% Squalane Oil, £27. Then, I’ll pummel my facial muscles into submission with a gua sha (though you can also use a jade roller, if you prefer). I sweep it across my forehead, neck and cheek, before paying particular attention to my jawline. It leaves my facial muscles slightly sore, but in a good way.

Once I’m done, I’ll shut my laptop, turn off the lights and climb into bed. I’ll do another mist – this time, it’s this works’ Deep Sleep Breathe In Rollerball, £18, a product I struggle to sleep without – and then, I’ll nod off.

Now, in the interest of keeping it real, there are some nights where I’ll follow all of these steps, some where I do half and some where I don’t do any at all (though, I live to regret it in the morning when my jaw is locked). But, following even just a few of these steps makes a huge difference to my stress levels and consequently, how I intensely I grind my teeth. It may sound like a lot, but try it. You may see a difference, too.

The calming kit

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