The Daily Grind
I am a teeth grinder. And if you’ve ever woken up with a sore jaw and headache, are unable to relax your jaw during the day, or have had a sleeping partner wake you up to say “stop making that horrible death sound with your mouth,” then you might be too.
My clenching and grinding peaked to a whole new level with the stress and anxiety of getting through nursing school. After a chipped molar and months of unrelenting jaw pain and headaches I finally went to a doctor for some guidance. The only solution he offered up was to take a sedative muscle relaxant to relax my jaw and relieve the pain. Muscle relaxants left me in a sleepy, foggy, whacked out state which was not going to work for me when I was trying to pass my nursing finals.
Refusing to believe that hardcore muscle relaxants could be my only option I did what I now know to be crucial to my own health and well being; went and did my own research. I don’t mean googling my symptoms on WebMD, diagnosing myself with incurable jaw cancer and looking for the best jaw cancer specialist in Seattle kind of research, but rather looking for reliable alternatives that fit better with my own personal health needs. In this case I went to speak to a pharmacist at a local drug store about alternatives to muscle relaxants. After I explained my symptoms he immediately handed me a magnesium supplement (I personally buy Nature Calm powder) and instructed me to take the recommended amount daily.
THIS SAVED ME and is the only thing that has ever worked for my clenching and grinding. Replenishing my body with magnesium had amazing effects and I noticed my jaw relaxing and the pain reducing within a week or so.
Magnesium is a dietary mineral that is essential for regulating our nervous, muscular and cardiovascular systems. Deficiencies of magnesium can cause constipation, high blood pressure, muscle cramps and anxiety among other symptoms. Just think of magnesium as a naturally occurring muscle relaxer in our bodies. A chill out mineral. Ideally, we get magnesium from our diets by eating foods like dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, avocados, bananas, whole grains and beans. Our modern day diets, however, often times lack magnesium so it can be a good idea to supplement your diet with magnesium pills or powder especially if you’re a teeth grinder.
At the grocery store or pharmacy, look specifically for magnesium citrate, chelate, or glycinate and avoid magnesium oxide as it is poorly absorbed and usually the cheapest forms found in supplements. It’s a good idea to start with 200mg to 400mg of magnesium taken at bedtime. The main side effect of too much magnesium is loose stools or diarrhea so if you experience these symptoms just dial back the dose! It’s important to take magnesium daily to get the muscle relaxant effects.
The pressure that grinding and clenching puts on your jaw is akin to having a sprained ankle, meaning it has to gradually heal overtime. So in addition to taking magnesium supplements at bedtime, you can reduce tension by applying warm compresses to your jaw at night, and take moments throughout the day to consciously relax and retrain your muscles. So give it a try! Your teeth (and sleeping partner...) will thank you.
*Magnesium is a safe supplement but it’s not for everyone, so consult you doctor before starting to take supplements especially if you have heart disease or kidney problems to make sure it works with your health needs and current medication regime.
Want more tips on how to reduce pain and improve your health through small, easy lifestyle modifications? Click the button below to schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Session phone call with me. I'd love to hear from you.
xx Christina Tidwell, MN, RN