Behavioral Therapies in the Management of Bruxism
There is no specific treatment for bruxism disorder and what most doctors and scientists agree on is that bruxism is best reduced and potentially eliminated using a holistic approach. The American Dental Association claims that 70% of bruxism is caused by stress. Therefore, managing stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions have been shown to reduce the severity of bruxism symptoms. Using techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, sleep hygiene, and hypnosis, have been found to be effective in the management of stress and anxiety which aid in reducing the symptoms of bruxism (Amorim et al., 2018). In this article, I will be discussing the various mental and behavioral techniques that can be used to manage stress.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is a psychotherapeutic technique that aims at solving emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. The technique is comprised of procedures that promote mental relaxation, habit reversal, mental resilience and stress management. The behavioral aspect of this technique aims to help people become more aware of when they make negative interpretations, and of behavioral patterns that reinforce the distorted thinking. CBT is also built on the belief that changing one’s way of thinking (cognition) can lead to a change in behavior (Dos-Santos et al., 2020). CBT helps people to develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving which helps to reduce their psychological distress.
Reprograming behavior and helping people achieve deep, uninterrupted sleep, is are some of the main goals of hypnotherapy. Unconscious re-patterning of one’s thoughts has been shown to occur during the deep trace states hypnotherapy can achieve (Amorim et al., 2018). Research shows that your subconscious mind controls over 90% of your daily thoughts, actions. This is especially true with the unconscious behavior of bruxism. Through hypnotherapy, the practitioner guides the patient into a deep trance state which makes the subconscious mind more open to influence and reprogramming of the subconscious thought processes. During this period, thoughts that lead to teeth clenching and or grinding can also undergo re-patterning. The technique also helps in reducing stress, a major cause of bruxism.
Sleep hygiene is perhaps one of the first things a clinician will counsel a patient on when dealing with bruxism behaviors. The goal of sleep hygiene is to reduce and/or eliminate the intake of certain food products and activities that have been shown to increase symptoms of bruxism. This includes stopping smoking and drinking alcohol before bedtime as well as limiting one’s consumption of caffeine-containing substances. Additionally, patients are suggested to create the optimal environment and mental state for sleep such as limiting physical or mental activity before going bed, and ensuring good bedroom conditions (quiet and dark).