Clenching - the effect on exercise

Clenching - the effect on exercise

Clenching is something you might do instinctively. You are stressed or exerting yourself. In fact, most times, you might not even realise you are.

So I was surprised when my research indicated that preventing clenching could improve physical performance. Let us find out how.

Before I get into clenching, let me reemphasize. Your primary objective is to breathe through your nose. In a perfect world, you are capable of breathing exclusively through your nose, no matter what.

Clenching is the involuntary holding of your teeth tightly against each other. When your brain experiences a trigger of stress, it responds by sending signals down your neurons. Neurotransmitters are released, which activate the muscles in your jaw.

If you keep doing this over and over again, strangely, you learn to clench when stressed to help your body release the same neurotransmitters. Clenching is now a learned response that your body is using to produce stress relief.

When you clench, you can generate up to 250 pounds per square inch (psi). For context, the cement that we would make was capable of withstanding a force of 330 psi. Obviously, your jaw muscles and teeth are not built to withstand this sort of force.

Long-term damage includes a weakening of your teeth and muscles. Your body may increase the calcification of your teeth in a desperate attempt at reinforcement. Calcification means adding more bone around your teeth to strengthen them.

So where does exercise fit into all of this?

Well, when you exercise, because you are exerting, your response could mimic the same stress response. One of the outcomes is reduced air flow, especially through your mouth.

One research article indicated an improvement in VO2Max, or your ability to uptake oxygen when breathing.

Which is why using a mouth guard while exercising can be very useful. In fact, using a mouth guard if you are prone to stress can be very useful regardless.

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