When Lifting Weights Damages Teeth: Why You Clench Your Teeth While Exercising and How to Stop

Jaw clenching is something that can be associated with physical exertion. This is often why weight lifters clench their teeth when lifting a particularly heavy weight. The act of clenching seems to assist in the completion of a rep, especially when one is close to ending the session. However, clenching your teeth while lifting heavy weights can take its toll on your teeth leading to tooth restoration procedures, cosmetic dentistry treatments and even braces. Not only will this cost you money, but it will also weaken your teeth as nothing comes close to the strength of natural teeth.

But why do you do it? Research may have the answer.

Clenching Your Teeth Signifies Effort

A study that measured frowning and jaw clenching in cyclists during high intensity exercise concluded that jaw clenching can be used as a good indicator of effort during exercise. In other words, the more effort you put in, the more you clench your jaw.

However; this does negatively impact your oral health.

Grinding or Clenching While Lifting Wears out Teeth

If you lift heavy weights often, then you are probably aware of your clenching habit. You may even sometimes suffer from headaches or neck strain due to the transference of stress through your teeth into your neck and upper back muscles.

It is your teeth; however, that will suffer the worst damage. Constantly gritting and grinding your teeth as you lift will gradually wear down the biting surfaces of your teeth. This will cause sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, and speed up tooth decay. Your tooth enamel protects the nerves inside your teeth, and if this enamel is worn down, the acid produced by tooth decay-causing bacteria will more easily break down the surface of your teeth, leading to cavities.

Clenching Can Also Affect Your Jaw Joints

You can also injure your jaw while clenching due to the enormous pressure placed on the jaw joints, also known as TMJs. When generating such force, the cartilaginous disc within the joint may be pushed too far forward, leading to clicking, headaches, searing pain and in extreme cases, lockjaw.

To correct this problem usually requires surgery, but if you stop your clenching habit first, you can save yourself the trouble.

Wearing a Mouth Guard Can Protect Your Teeth and Speed up Recovery

Because clenching is sometimes a subconscious reflex, it can be difficult to stop. The most obvious solution then, is to wear a mouth guard. Mouth guards can help you in two ways. Firstly, they protect your teeth from wear and tear, and secondly, research shows that wearing a mouthpiece while exercising decreases cortisol levels post workout. The less cortisol your body has after a workout the faster you can recover.

If you have trouble controlling your clenching reflex during weight lifting, speak to your dentist about mouth guards. Your dentist may be able to create a custom mouth guard for your bite that is comfortable and can protect your teeth during your workouts.