Your dentist says, “Do you grind your teeth at night?”
You say, “Yes.”
Or you say, “No.” Doesn’t matter.
Your dentist says, “You need a tooth guard.”
You say, “Okay.” The dentist then sells you an expensive rubber contraption for your mouth, or you buy a cheaper one that doesn’t fit as well from the grocery store or the internet.
But you do have another option. This option is: Stop grinding your teeth.
I say to my dentist: How about if I stop grinding my teeth?
It’s clear from his response that he’s never heard of such a thing, and doubts if it’s possible.
I persist: “Surely, with all the tooth-grinding patients you see, there are some who have taught themselves to relax their jaws at night?”
“It’s hard to change an unconscious behavior that happens when you’re asleep,” he explains.
Well, sure. But worth a try. So on the way to sleep, I relax my jaw. There are many muscles in the jaw, and it’s an interesting experience to try to release the tension in all of them. It’s…. relaxing!
Then, if I wake up at night, my first thought (besides “I wonder if I really need to go to the bathroom or can wait”) is, “Relax the jaw.”
After about a year of this, I’ve noticed these things:
1) Jaw tension happens during the day too.
2) I have significantly decrease tooth-grinding through this awareness campaign
3) my entire head, neck, and even shoulders feel better when I relax my jaw.
Better than a mouth guard? You bet!
Mariah Burton Nelson
American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation