Are you grinding your teeth, especially while sleeping? Waking up in the morning with a sore jaw? Are you being kept awake by your spouse’s incessant gnashing, grinding and clenching of teeth all night long? Does your jaw make a popping sound? Are you worried your child may grind his teeth down to nubs? Stress, anxiety, tension, anger and frustration are the commonly known causes of teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. Teeth grinding occurs in adults and children all over the world.
Mild and occasional teeth-grinding does not cause much harm, however for some people who suffer from chronic bruxism and have been grinding their teeth for years, it may lead to damage to their dental and jaw health. In some circumstances, teeth grinding and clenching can wear down tooth enamel, chip teeth, increase temperature sensitivity, and cause severe facial pain and jaw problems including TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders. It can also affect the quality of your sleep. Teeth grinding and teeth clenching can contribute to orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD) which may affect speech in children and adults.
My neighbour is a high-flying executive in a very high-profile job. She had been grinding her teeth for several months, the dentist said that it was due to anxiety and stress, and suggested mouth-guards for her to wear while sleeping. Another friend also experienced teeth grinding, and she too had to wear a mouth-guard at night. Her dentist concluded that it was due to bad occlusion i.e. abnormal alignment of her teeth.
If stress and anxiety are the cause of your teeth grinding, the obvious solution would be to take away the stressors. However, not everyone has the luxury of going on holiday or taking a break away from our responsibilities. My fellow autism mothers know that walking away from the stress and pressures of raising and recovering our children with autism is not an option. Instead, we find creative ways to manage our stress levels and take measures to minimise our anxiety. Exercising, getting a massage and doing yoga are great stress-busters. Taking fish oil or Omega 3 supplement with high EPA helps with mood regulation. L-Theanine, a natural green tea extract, helps relieve anxiety and aids in serotonin production. Diffusing lavender essential oil is calming and grounding. My fellow Thinking Mom and Team TMR co-author Shawty swears by meditation and adrenal support to manage her stress level and minimise her teeth grinding.
But psychological issues can’t be the only reason for teeth grinding, right? It’s not just because of teeth alignment either. Surely there are other physiological factors to consider? My older daughter, Mei, used to grind her teeth at night so loudly that I could hear it from the other room! I highly doubt stress played much of a part in her teeth grinding. I was raising two daughters with autism at that time; if stress was really the only cause of teeth grinding, my teeth would be filed down to nubs. Stress was the norm for me back then, hyper-vigilance fused into every fibre of my being. But I wasn’t grinding my teeth at night. My intuition told me that my children’s teeth grinding was not caused by stress. What else could it be?
Teeth grinding is also associated with mineral deficiency, especially calcium. People who are doing detox especially, heavy metal chelation, may find that it depletes minerals too. Some people tend to leach minerals faster than the average person and need to replenish their minerals. Giving Mei additional calcium citrate with meals did the trick. I prefer calcium citrate, as it is absorbed better than other forms. Always remember to take calcium supplements with meals, otherwise kidney stones may occur.
It’s Not Just Calcium
But what if it’s not just calcium? For some people, they may need a little extra zinc rather than calcium. Sometimes I need to increase my daughter’s magnesium intake separately, especially if there is teeth clenching is involved. Magnesium is also calming, helps with serotonin production, helps with calcium absorption and it relaxes tight muscles. I prefer Magnesium Glycinate as it is easier to absorb, and less irritating to the gut.
Calcium, magnesium and zinc are staple supplements in every basic biomedical protocol for autism. But the human body requires more than just these three minerals. You can use a multi-mineral supplement to get the others if you like. But I wondered if there were more effective solutions, a more natural source of minerals.
Himalayan Salt Sole
I was then introduced to Himalayan salt sole. Sole (pronounced so-lay) is made from Himalayan rock salt. This beautiful pink-coloured salt, mined from the Himalayan mountains, contains 84 minerals. When you dissolve Himalayan rock salt in water, to the point of saturation, that salt water solution is called sole. You can make your own Sole, using pure Himalayan salt in rock or crystal form. Read my blog on how to make your own sole here.
When Mei started grinding her teeth again at night, I gave her extra sole and it soon stopped. Himalayan salt also has the added benefit of cleansing away negative energies; thus, we do Himalayan salt baths often too.
Beyond Dairy: Mineral-Rich Foods
If you are like me and my family who avoid dairy products or are on a casein-free diet, I also incorporate lots of calcium and mineral-rich foods in our meals because we know that milk is not the only source of calcium in our diet.
I also cook a lot of bone broths, which are full of minerals. Bone broth is highly nutritious: It fortifies the immune system, enhances digestion and is a delicious way to include more minerals in your family’s diet. Please try out my Malaysian Bone Broth recipe.
I include a lot of ikan bilis in my cooking. Ikan bills is a type of Malaysian dried anchovy, which provides lots of calcium and tastes yummy. In certain countries, dairy is not a traditional part of their diet, thus they obtain their calcium needs from other foods, such as seaweed in Japan.
Himalayan salt sole, bone broths, ocean water and isotonic sea salt solution also have the added benefit of being easier to absorb, without the added stressor of overworking the liver that comes with typical capsule and tablet mineral supplements.
Valerian, Lavender and Chamomile
Apart from increasing our mineral intake, I also use essential oils such as valerian, lavender, Roman chamomile and oil blends known to help with teeth grinding, anxiety and stress. Personally, I’m not a big fan of valerian, be it in herbal remedy form or as an essential oil. I find that valerian tends to give me very vivid dreams. But lavender and Roman chamomile are absolutely lovely. Chamomile is also a great homeopathic remedy, well-known for it’s use for children who are teething. And chamomile tea is a natural remedy for calming overwrought nerves.
If teeth grinding still persists even after increasing the minerals and taking measures to reduce stress, parasites could be an issue. Especially if the grinding occurs during the full moon and comes with other symptoms commonly associated with parasites: anal itching, nightmares, mood swings, behavioural issues especially during full-moon periods, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and more. Some children I know have difficulty gaining weight, even though they eat a lot. They have a huge appetite, are insatiable for food and more food, yet still do not gain weight. This too could also be a symptom of intestinal parasites. Please read Bugs, Moon Cycles and Lunacy and Got Parasites?
In addition to over-the-counter worm medication, there are several parasite treatments I find effective. Artemesia wormwood, black walnut and clove are well-known herbal remedies. They are effective, but taste horrible. My girls had a terrible time swallowing the herbal remedies when they were younger and were not able to swallow capsules.
Also effective are Kerri Rivera’s CD protocol which has really helped with parasites, candida and bacterial overgrowth for us. I also use the following essential oils – DiGize, Oregano, Thieves and Peppermint layered on the soles of the feet twice a day which helps with parasites as well as candida.
Homeopathy and Cell Salts
Homeopathic remedies can also be very effective. Cina (pronounced ‘see-nah’) is a popular remedy for worms. I have friends who saw tons of worms pass out just on Cina alone. However, it didn’t do much for us. When Mei was grinding her teeth again, my homeopath kindly made a batch of combination remedies made of several homeopathic remedies that are effective for worms. Following her protocol, I saw a reduction in parasite symptoms including itchy bottom and wormy behaviour. The teeth grinding stopped temporarily, but came back again. Even after doing all the other previously successful treatments, this time the teeth grinding stubbornly remained. Increasing her minerals didn’t work. Treating parasites didn’t quite do the trick. What else could it be?
Schuessler’s Cell Salts (also known as biochemic or tissue salts) are potentised micro-doses of 12 essential minerals our body needs to repair and maintain itself. Cell salts are prepared in homeopathic 6X potencies that are gentle, effective and easy to use. Similar to homeopathy, cell salts are ultra dilutions of minerals, but at a much lower potency.
One of my favourite cell salt is Mag Phos 6x. When increasing minerals such as magnesium doesn’t work, I reach for cell salts. Here’s why – increasing the dosage of our magnesium supplement isn’t necessarily the answer. Even when we use the most bioavailable form, or the most easily absorbed form of magnesium, sometimes that just isn’t enough. It’s just not practical or safe to keep increasing the dose. And just because the mineral is well-absorbed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the magnesium is properly utilised. So in this instance, I use Mag Phos cell salt, which helps the body to utilise the existing magnesium in our body. Depending on what you need, you choose from one of the 12 cells salts available. Cell salts aid cells to better assimilate, stimulating the body to use the minerals more efficiently.
Calc Phos, Calc Fluor and Nat Phos are 3 of the most commonly used cell salts for teeth and dental problems. One young boy with autism I know was a chronic teeth grinder, he has been grinding his teeth for years! His mother had increased his minerals and treated him for parasites, yet the teeth grinding continued. She wasn’t quite sure which cell salt to choose from, so she chose Bioplasma instead, which is a combination of all 12 of the tissue salts. Today his mum told me that he no longer grinds his teeth.
Someone asked me if I’ve done cranial work for Mei’s teeth grinding. She explained that teeth grinding may also be a structural issue, that it could be caused by the occipital plates in the skull shifting. She explained that with each neuro-insult or toxic assault, the plates get closer and closer and fuse. Upon treating the toxicity, with each clearing, release or detoxification, the plates start to relax and shift back to their original position. All that moving around may cause the plates in the skull to shift and adjust, and possibly contribute to teeth grinding. Of course, this is an over-simplification of the extremely complex structure of the human skeletal system and its relation to toxic insult. But, it made perfect sense to me. This possible theory definitely got me intrigued. I wasn’t going to write it off just because I didn’t fully understand the complex structure of the human anatomy. One thing autism has taught me is to keep an open mind.
So off I went to see our biodynamic osteopath, a charming Frenchman. Osteopaths have a range of techniques to treat teeth grinding, depending on the cause. My family and I have done osteopathy in the past for various issues. We have experienced much healing with osteopathy, and we usually experience relief within 1-3 sessions. Our osteopath did some Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST is a part of osteopathy) on Mei, adjusted and balanced her body and did the magic that osteopaths do. After one session, no more teeth grinding. Voila! I love osteopathy, it can treat anything from sciatica, back problems, headaches, insomnia, allergies, eczema, asthma, autism, sleep apnea and more.
We take great pains to maintain optimal oral health, we brush and floss regularly, we use fluoride-free toothpaste, have regular dental check-ups, avoid amalgam fillings and do oil-pulling. We spend countless hours teaching and coaxing our children to brush their teeth. We avoid sugary drinks and acidic foods. We spend a lot of time and money on oral hygiene to avoid tooth decay, gum disease, and more. Teeth grinding can cause many problems, especially when it comes to chronic bruxism. So let’s nip it in the bud before our teeth are ground down to nubs. Stress, anxiety, mineral deficiency, parasites, teeth alignment and cranial structure can all contribute to teeth grinding. Treating it naturally will leave a positive impact on your health. Next time you or someone in your family grinds your teeth, don’t forget to diffuse some lavender, cook up a big batch of bone broth, check whether there’s a full moon, and do some cranial work.
Smile and show off those pearly white teeth everyone! Hope this helps.
~ Dragon Slayer
About the author – Dragon Slayer is a mother of two children who are recovered from autism. She is the co-author of Autism Beyond the Spectrum, the vice-president of The Thinking Moms’ Revolution, and the co-founder of Brightstars – Life Skills For Exceptional Kids, a holistic school for children with autism, ADHD and learning challenges. She lives with her husband and children in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For more blogs by Dragon Slayer, CLICK HERE.