Have you ever caught yourself pushing your tongue against your teeth during stress or anxiety? While seemingly harmless, this habit can negatively affect your oral health and overall well-being. Pushing the tongue against the teeth is a physical manifestation of anxiety, which can cause individuals to engage in various habits and behaviors. Some people with diagnosed OCD may also do this from time to time.
Understanding the Habit
Pushing the tongue against teeth is a common habit that is often associated with anxiety. People who struggle with anxiety may develop this habit to relieve stress or tension. Anxiety can manifest itself in various physical behaviors and habits, and pushing the tongue against the teeth is just one of them.
Some individuals may develop this habit due to body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), a group of disorders characterized by repetitive, self-grooming behaviors that can cause damage or injury to the body. Tongue thrusting, or pushing the tongue against the teeth, is one of the most common BFRBs.
Research has shown that people who suffer from anxiety tend to engage in more BFRBs than those who do not experience anxiety. However, BFRBs can also occur in individuals with other mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression.
Why Do People with Anxiety Push Their Tongue Against Their Teeth?
People with anxiety may push their tongue against their teeth to relieve stress or tension. When we experience anxiety, our body naturally releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause physical sensations such as muscle tension, discomfort, gut issues, or even pain.
Pushing the tongue against the teeth may temporarily relieve these physical anxiety symptoms. It can also give individuals a sense of control over their anxiety, which can be comforting.
In addition to relieving stress, tongue thrusting may also be a way for individuals to cope with boredom or to self-soothe. This behavior can become habitual over time, and individuals may not even know they are doing it.
Symptoms of Pushing Tongue Against Teeth Anxiety
Pushing the tongue against the teeth is often a physical manifestation of anxiety. Here are some common symptoms associated with this habit:
- Tooth pain and sensitivity: Continuous pressure against the teeth can lead to enamel erosion and cause discomfort, pain, and hypersensitivity in your teeth.
- Headaches and jaw pain: Excessive jaw clenching, grinding, and pressure can strain your jaw muscles and cause tension headaches and jaw pain.
- Mouth sores and cuts: Pushing your tongue against your teeth or biting your cheeks can result in mouth sores, cuts, and ulcers, which can be painful and take time to heal.
- Anxiety and stress: The tongue-thrusting habit is often linked to anxiety and other emotional stressors. It is common to feel more anxious or stressed when engaging in this habit.
It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary in severity and frequency depending on the individual and the underlying cause of the anxiety. Seeking professional help can help identify triggers and effective coping strategies.
The Impact of Pushing Tongue Against Teeth
Pushing the tongue against the teeth may seem harmless, but it can negatively affect oral health. Continuous pressure on the teeth can cause them to shift or become misaligned. This can lead to occlusion issues, which is how the upper and lower teeth fit together when biting or chewing.
Individuals who habitually push their tongue against their teeth may also experience soreness or pain in the jaw muscles. This can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, which can cause difficulty chewing, speaking, and opening the mouth wide.
In addition to oral health problems, pushing the tongue against the teeth can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. The constant pressure and tension on the jaw and mouth can increase feelings of stress and discomfort.
The Role of Bruxism
Pushing the tongue against the teeth may also be associated with bruxism, the habitual grinding or clenching of teeth. Bruxism can cause significant damage to teeth, including wearing down the enamel, chipping or fracturing teeth, and increasing tooth sensitivity.
Bruxism is often related to anxiety or stress and typically occurs during sleep. However, some individuals may also experience bruxism during waking hours, which may be related to pushing the tongue against the teeth.
Prevention and Treatment
To prevent the negative consequences of pushing the tongue against the teeth, it’s essential to identify and address the root cause of the behavior. This may involve seeking treatment for anxiety or stress, practicing relaxation techniques, or working with a dentist or orthodontist to address any underlying dental issues.
Some individuals may benefit from wearing a mouthguard at night to protect their teeth from bruxism. Additionally, practicing good oral hygiene, including regularly brushing and flossing the teeth, can help prevent dental problems associated with pushing the tongue against the teeth.
Coping Strategies for Pushing Tongue Against Teeth Anxiety
Managing anxiety can be challenging, but there are effective coping strategies to help reduce the urge to push the tongue against the teeth.
Relaxation techniques can help manage anxiety and reduce the habit of pushing the tongue against the teeth. Deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation exercises can be practiced regularly to reduce anxiety levels.
|Deep breathing||Inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth for 4 seconds. Repeat several times.|
|Visualization||Mentally picture a peaceful scene such as a beach or a forest and imagine yourself there.|
|Progressive muscle relaxation||Tense and release each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up.|
Mindfulness exercises Mindfulness involves being present at the moment and paying attention without judgment to one’s thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Regular mindfulness practice can aid in anxiety management and reduce the desire to engage in the behavior.
Alternative habits can be developed to replace the urge to push the tongue against the teeth. For example, chewing gum or sucking on a piece of hard candy can provide a similar sensation without potential dental problems. Keeping the hands busy with a fidget toy or stress ball can also effectively reduce anxiety and the habit of pushing the tongue against the teeth.
Several lifestyle changes can also be implemented to help manage anxiety and reduce the habit of pushing the tongue against the teeth. These include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption
- Engaging in relaxing activities such as yoga or meditation
It’s important to remember that coping strategies may take time to be effective, and it’s okay to seek professional help if the habit of pushing the tongue against the teeth continues to cause distress.
Lion’s Mane and Anxiety
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a type of mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine for its health-promoting properties. Recently, it has gained attention for its potential benefits in managing anxiety.
The active compounds in Lion’s Mane, including hericenones and erinacines, have been found to promote nerve growth and regeneration in the brain. This can help improve cognitive function and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Several studies have investigated Lion’s Mane’s effects on anxiety in animals and humans. One study found that supplementing with Lion’s Mane for four weeks significantly reduced anxiety and depression in mice. Another study in humans found that taking a Lion’s Mane supplement for four weeks significantly improved overall mental health and quality of life.
While more research is needed to understand the effects of Lion’s Mane on anxiety fully, early studies suggest that it may be a promising natural supplement for managing anxiety symptoms.
GABA and Anxiety
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in regulating anxiety.
Low levels of GABA have been associated with increased anxiety, while higher levels are thought to promote feelings of calm and relaxation. GABA helps to inhibit the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain, which can help to reduce feelings of anxiety.
There are several ways to increase GABA levels, including exercise, meditation, and diet. Some individuals may also consider taking GABA supplements, although the efficacy of these supplements is somewhat controversial and not well-supported by scientific research.
Supplements that Increase GABA Levels
Some supplements may increase GABA levels in the brain:
|Phenibut||A GABA derivative that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase GABA levels.|
|Kava||A plant extract has been shown to increase GABA levels in the brain.|
|Valerian Root||A plant extract that has been used for centuries to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.|
It’s important to note that while these supplements may increase GABA levels, they can also have potential side effects and should be used with caution.
In addition to supplements, other strategies for increasing GABA levels naturally include reducing stress, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga, and getting adequate sleep.
Ashwagandha and Anxiety
Ashwagandha, or Withania Somnifera, is an adaptogenic herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various conditions, including stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
The active ingredients in Ashwagandha are believed to reduce cortisol levels and increase GABA activity in the brain, which can help alleviate anxiety symptoms and improve mood.
Several studies have investigated the effects of Ashwagandha on anxiety levels, with promising results. In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, individuals with a history of chronic stress who received Ashwagandha supplementation experienced a significant reduction in perceived stress and anxiety compared to those who received a placebo.
Another study found that Ashwagandha effectively reduced anxiety symptoms in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder compared to a placebo.
Overall, growing evidence suggests that Ashwagandha may be an effective natural remedy for anxiety. However, more research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms of action and potential side effects.
Coping Strategies for Pushing Tongue Against Teeth Anxiety
Managing anxiety and the habit of pushing the tongue against the teeth can be challenging, but several effective coping strategies can help reduce anxiety and curb the urge to engage in the habit. Below are some helpful techniques:
Practicing relaxation techniques can help reduce anxiety and stress levels. Some effective techniques include deep breathing exercises, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga. These exercises can help you relax your mind and body, reduce muscle tension, and decrease anxiety symptoms.
Mindfulness can help you stop fighting against your emotions and thoughts and accept them for what they are. As a result, you may feel less anxious and less compelled to practice pressing your tongue against your teeth whenever stress levels rise. Breathing mindfully, examining one’s body, and meditating systematically are all excellent places to start while exploring mindfulness.
Replacing the habit of pushing your tongue against your teeth with a different habit can help break the cycle. Some alternative habits include chewing gum, sucking on mints or candies, or fiddling with a stress ball or toy.
Healthy habits can also help reduce anxiety and the urge to push your tongue against your teeth. Ensure you sleep well, engage in regular physical activities, and eat healthy. These habits can help you feel more relaxed and energized, reducing your anxiety levels and decreasing the habit of pushing your tongue against your teeth.
Seek Professional Help
If your anxiety and the habit of pushing your tongue against your teeth significantly impact your daily life, it may be time to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor or mental health provider about the best treatment options, including therapy, medications, or a combination.
Pushing the tongue against the teeth is a common habit associated with anxiety. The good news is that you can practice several effective coping strategies to help reduce anxiety and curb the urge to engage in the habit. By trying these techniques, you can manage your anxiety symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.