I don’t even know how to describe what I’m writing about this afternoon. Bruxism, to be vague, but it’s more than my new-found habit of teeth clenching. I’m trying to figure out why, after 22 years of uninhibited sleep, I have suddenly started clenching my teeth. I can’t figure it out. One night I was watching a movie with my husband, all cozied up and lying on his chest, when he out of the blue said, “stop that!” I hadn’t a clue as to what he meant, and my expression told him so. He told me that he noticed about a week before that I had been clenching and grinding my teeth. He said he could feel my teeth clattering together on his chest, and it was driving him nuts. So not only do I clench at night, but I’m clenching while I’m awake, too! Perfect.
Anyhow, after a quick stop at my dentist office, at which he told me for a twenty-something the wear on my teeth from my bruxism was a tad frightening, I decided to study up and identify the root of my problem.
For those playing catch-up, Bruxism is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: the involuntary or habitual grinding of the teeth, typically during sleep.
A lot of people do this. Like, a lot a lot. In fact, according to the American Sleep Association, or ASA, “Bruxism is a common sleep finding, affecting 10% of people and as many as 15% of children…”
(To read more on this source click here!)
Bruxism is a pain. (See what I did there?) It’s not the worst disorder, I mean out of all the disorders people have today, clenching certainly is bottom list stuff, but it’s just annoying. I wake up with neck pains, headaches and a dull throb in my jaw. During the day my jaw will get so tired from all the clenching that I actually find it hard to talk. Me! Have a hard time talking! It’s almost insanity. Aside from the pain, clenching and grinding wears down tooth and enamel and previous dental work. If “untreated” or unresolved, Bruxism can cause life-long problems.
But like I said, clenching is bottom list stuff, so how does one go about resolving this disorder? The simple answer? You just stop clenching. You just stop yourself from doing a subconscious act by consciously not doing said act. Yeah, it’s a hassle. How do I prevent clenching when I’m asleep? The simple answer? I don’t. Essentially I wear a slim and minimally-obnoxious mouth guard as a protective layer between my upper and lower teeth. I still clench, but the guard helps evenly distribute the pressure and reduces wear. Like I said, it’s a hassle.
Even though the guard has significantly helped my sleepy-time clench, I have yet to figure out how to stop myself from the clench! during my waking hours. Obviously if I notice I’m clenching I stop, but after a few minutes, whilst my attention is elsewhere, I start up again. So I thought to myself, “Self, there has to be a reason you’re clenching, and experts say that clenching can be caused by stress and anxiety. So identify your stressors and be done with it.” (I’m really firm with myself; I have to be otherwise I let myself get away with anything.)
So here I sit, contemplating my life and trying to identify my stressors. I don’t stress about a lot of things, mainly because I don’t know how to. That’s not me being casual and charming, that’s a direct result of a long period of apathy during my crucial teenage years of emotional development. And that’s not me being coy, my apathy stemmed from my first experience of heartbreak. Not the relationship kind, but the kind of break you feel that happens when your best friend is killed in a freak ATV accident – but that is another post altogether.
Where were we? Oh, right, my stressors. I’ve been trying to identify anything that would cause a normal individual to stress out, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Living situation, and feeling unsettled. (Uhm, hello, we live in a camper. Eventually we’ll make it a home, but right now it feels like an extended camping trip. How much more unsettled can you be?!)
- College and finances for school. (Did I mention I won’t be attending WSU this fall because we chose to wait a few more months to qualify for in-state tuition and lesson the cost? Mature decision? Yes. Happy about it? Not particularly, but boo debt!)
- Issues in the family/relationship. (Not to brag, but my husband and I have a really good relationship, and it’s only been strengthened since the move. This one isn’t a personal reflection J)
- Anxiety/Stress due to work environment or situation. (To go along with my school situation, I felt that God wanted me to give advanced notice of my resignation at my job. So I did, then I felt God telling me to wait on school to make it more affordable, so now I’m following that path, but during all this, my current position has already been filled. So there’s a chance I’ll have to switch jobs at the end of August! Oy Vey. Is alright, God is in control!)
These are all the stressors I could come up with that could possibly apply to my life and situation.
Whew! That wasn’t so bad… It just took me all afternoon to figure out! Now that I have these figured out the next step is to reduce what stress there is in these areas. Which, honestly this isn’t such a bad deal. I’m being forced to find resolution and confirmation in my life, and it’s all because I clench my teethies! With all this self-discovery and improvement there’s bound to be a lot of changes coming, stay tuned for those!
In the meantime, here’s to night guards during sleepy-time, and deep, calming breaths during wakey-time.
Do you, or did you have Bruxism? How do you deal with your clenching? What stressors cause major clenching in your life? Any tips for a fellow clencher? Feel free to sharesies!!!!!