You have probably heard or read about the ways that smoking can affect the health of your teeth and gums (not to mention the rest of your body). There are frequent reports about the connection between tobacco and oral cancer, stained teeth, and receding gums. What comes up less often, however, is the connection between nicotine and teeth grinding.
While there have not been many studies into the subject yet, one study of Finnish twins found a distinct relationship between smoking and bruxism– the official name for teeth grinding. And another study specified as much as a two-fold increase in the probability of teeth grinding amongst smokers when compared to non-smokers.
Nicotine shares common ground with other bruxism triggers.
Nicotine is a stimulant, which makes it similar to caffeine – another substance with a tie to bruxism. As stimulants, both nicotine and caffeine affect the way your body processes dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, among other things, governs your muscle movement. So, changes in dopamine can cause you to clench muscles or experience restlessness.
Additionally, while many smokers think of smoking as a way to destress, nicotine actually introduces stress to your body. And stress is the biggest recognized trigger of teeth grinding. Smoking brings smokers relaxation only because it is helping them meet a craving that has been brought on by the nicotine itself. In short, nicotine creates stress in the body that must then be treated with nicotine.
When you are trying to sleep through the night, your body is not meeting that need for nicotine. Imagine how that might trigger stress in your system…
Grinding your teeth only adds to the damage nicotine is already doing to your mouth.
While nicotine is staining your teeth and increasing your risk of cancer, bruxism is wearing down the surface of your teeth. Teeth grinding can even contribute to gum recession. Those who grind their teeth particularly aggressively have sometimes chipped or lost teeth thanks to the damage caused by teeth grinding.
As if that weren’t enough, clenching and grinding your jaw can lead to headaches, hearing damage, neck pain, and TMJ. Unless you want chronic pain, long-term damage, and expensive dental bills, it’s time to do something about this nightly habit.
The most obvious first step is to quit smoking.
Way easier said than done, right? If you’re reading this, chances are you have tried to quit smoking before, maybe more than once. So, you might feel this is an impossible task. But know that you are not doomed to fail just because you fell back into the habit in the past.
There are so many ways to quit smoking these days. People have found success with hypnosis, willpower training, medication, support groups, and going cold turkey. Try a method you haven’t attempted before. Reach out to others who have quit, ask them for recommendations. A lot of the time, changing your routine helps a great deal. If you have specific places or activities you associate with smoking, try switching things up. Change the set-up of your desk or office. Cut out smoking in your car. Make rules that help you cut down on the number of routine activities your associate with smoking.
The complementary step is to work on destressing.
Not smoking is only half the battle to conquering bruxism. The rest of the work is about learning how to manage stress in your life. Give yourself time and opportunities to destress each day. This might mean enjoying a walk or run, meditating, stretching or doing yoga, watching or reading something humorous.
Then, create a bedtime routine that helps you wind down. You might play relaxing music, drink chamomile tea, take a warm bath, enjoy breathing exercises, write down your thoughts from the day, making sure to include something positive even on stressful days.
While you’re working on these things, make sure you are protecting your teeth.
If you go to bed worrying that you will still grind your teeth and damage them, you’ll never be able to relax. Get yourself a night guard to help ease your mind and protect your teeth. A night guard (also known as a mouth guard) should sit comfortably over your teeth and protect them from scraping against each other.
While there are generic night guards available at your local drug store, we highly recommend getting a custom-fitted one that is designed around your teeth. That way, it will fit like a glove, and it won’t take you long to get used to wearing it.
You can get custom night guards in a couple of ways.
Custom night guards are available through your dentist or through our site online. At your dentist, the dentist or an assistant will take a mold of your mouth and send it to a lab like ours to have your mouth guard made and mailed back to the office. If you choose to order directly with TeethNightGuard, you will receive your own mold-making kit at home. You will make a mold of your mouth and then mail it to us so that we can make your night guard.
All of our shipping and manufacturing is done in the United States at a state-of-the-art facility. We offer night guards in a range of densities, with the medium being the most popular. Choose something on the softer side if you are especially sensitive and worried about comfort or choose a harder plastic if you are an aggressive teeth grinder and want something that will tough out your grinding habit for a long time.
We are so glad you are looking for ways to protect your teeth and break bad habits. Asking questions is always the first step towards success. We wish you all the best on your upcoming journey.
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