As a child of the 80’s who grew up on Kool-Aid, Cocoa Pebbles, Ding Dongs and well water (in addition to the regular meat and veg, to be fair), I grew my share of cavities. What isn’t taught and absorbed in the cavity fear mongering of our youth is that sometimes fillings don’t hold up and the cavities plague you far after that initial drilling.
I’ve become quite meticulous with my oral hygiene as I’ve matured, so I was surprised when a recent dentist’s visit revealed that one of my old fillings was “leaking” and needed to be replaced.
As drilling commenced, my DDS reported that the filling had “debonded,” or pulled away from the tooth.
“Do you grind your teeth or clench your jaw?” he asked. I laughed.
I absolutely do clench my jaw. Fiercely, and for hours, as I try to burn up (or maybe bottle up) my frustrations daily. My teeth clench together so hard that my face is tired at the end of most days. I internalize my stress and don’t know how to handle it, so it winds tightly there.
He recommended a night guard, which seemed silly to me because that’s the only time of day I’m actually relaxed. So I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to recognize feelings of stress and let them go. From time to time I’ll check to see if my jaw is relaxed, just like the yoga instructors ask of you (so I can’t be the only one who is shocked every single time at the tightness one can find in a jaw). I’ll turn my focus to the muscles between my neck and shoulders and ask them to relax. It’s amazing what a tiny bit of attention can do to ease tension.
Lately I’ve begun to consider myself as a stress addict. Relaxation isn’t my natural state, but achieving it is a dream of mine. It’s just that somehow over the years I’ve learned that stress is somehow important. It became a barometer for how hard I was working, how much I cared about my family, how much I wanted to improve myself.
Then I started breaking my teeth.
I’m going to unlearn that habit before I break something else.