What TMJ Symptoms May Be Telling You
There was an occasion when I wasn’t handling the stress of my life well.
The Specifics don’t matter: here at stressbubbles, it is how we perceive and deal with stress that’s important.
It was a difficult time, I can be forgiven for viewing it with despair, but I had choices in the way I interpreted it. I chose the dark side.
At the same time, I began a brand new, full time hobby: Teeth Grinding. Combined with The Clench. During the night. While sleeping.
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) is characterized by many symptoms, only one of which is tooth grinding and associated pain.
I’d been quite adept at Clenching and Grinding in previous stress incarnations. But during this particular situation of angst, it became an every night occurrence.
I’d wake up in the morning with jaw pain, a dull headache. One can’t predetermine the duration, intensity or magnitude of Grinding and Clenching. It’s an unintentional behaviour. Therefore, it is quite disturbing.
An immediate remedy of course is to get a night guard. A night guard is a good (essential?) defence against uncontrolled distress. And a pretty good way to keep your teeth. Talk to your dentist. You may need to safeguard your dentitions.
Grinding, Clenching and TMJ take all forms, happen for all kinds of reasons. In my case I suspect it was a function of breakthrough stress which shoved its way through normal healthy barriers. A one-way trip to The Danger Zone: chronic anxiety.
But I realized that my overwrought jaw was doing me a favour.
It wasn’t productive that I imagined waking up, heading to the mirror, opening my mouth, seeing all my teeth gone.
It didn’t help that my beloved dental hygenist informed me that my night guard, accompanied by my grinding, had created ridges on my front teeth! She had to sand them down! (I know. In the realm of TMJ, that’s TMI. Sorry.)
I proclaimed this whole nightly gnashing behaviour ridiculous and I insisted to myself that this had to stop. (Despite having no control over it.)
A few specific practices curbed the behaviour.
One: Prior to bedtime I’d tell myself: NO MORE, or, DO NOT GRIND TONIGHT, YOUNG LADY. Silly childish self-talk, perhaps; but it worked, the nightly chomping ceased.
Two: I meditated regularly to help calm my state of mind. Very effective. (The glory of meditation will be discussed thoroughly in future posts.)
Three: I dealt with the major stress that was deeply affecting me. I addressed the problem. I had no choice if I wanted the tooth gnashing to abate. Proactive behaviour is a cure for many ills.
For other sufferers, therapy may be necessary to identify reasons behind chomping at one’s bits. A visit to the dentist may also be essential, to find out if the jaw is actually working properly; grinding is sometimes associated with improper alignment of the chops; is sometimes not about stress at all.
The body gives us so many signals that we’re off centre, not balanced, teetering. As usual, we have choices about our daily tension: we can whine, complain, wring hands, and yes, even gnash the teeth.
Or we can figure out what’s wrong with our lives, and make positive changes.
Do you want to join me in the Clenching and Grinding Club? You really don’t. And if you’re already there, I hope you proactively search for solutions.