Thursday, July 12, 2007

Back to the Dentist-- Interesting Stress Lesson

Today I went to the dentist. I felt like I was growing a fang in the back of my mouth and was gnawing on the inside of my cheek near the furthest tooth where I'd had a root canal. I thought I was silly for feeling it but he looked and said, "How did we miss that?!! I'm so sorry!" He fixed it in a matter of seconds.

Last time I was there he'd noticed various problems with my teeth from grinding and I thought that I'd ground them at night but in recent weeks I've become aware that I do it during the day and what accompanies this-- often me mentally swearing, "Why does she have to be such a bitch? Can't she just do the damned dishes?" I had a sewer brain and more frequently than I care to admit, a sewer mouth. I am learning in my stress management how this was affecting me.

For well over a year now, I have had headaches. I used to make fun of women at church who seemed to turn 35 and start having them, one who even swore that she had brain cancer and that the headaches were a symptom in spite of doctors telling her that there was nothing there to cause them. I quit going to church when I started getting headaches, thinking that I had a sympathetic reaction to their comments in spite of the fact that I did not feel sympathetic towards them. With the pain medication that my dentist gave me a month ago and waking up to no pain and what followed with the operation, his questions, my class and then being aware was that maybe those women really do have headaches (from stress-- not the group issue of pre-menopause that they talk about so freely) and they also grind their teeth. These same women with big families blame their oral problems on having had so many children-- maybe they do have tooth problems because of having had so many children, but it's related more to them reacting to the stress, not from them having birthed so many babies. I told that to my dentist and he agreed but said that he'd never thought to ask about headaches per se because he is a dentist-- he asks usually about jaw pain and I didn't even think that I had jaw pain although I can look at my jawline and see a jowl forming (I showed him a picture from 25 years ago when I didn't have even the start of jowls) and he also saw it. Now I feel myself start to tense up and I do a yoga pose-- my body seems to know what to do and I feel and hear joints crackle, releasing tension as I breathe into the muscles that want to tense up.

Apparently he can prescribe one of these: during the day and it will make me not be able to grind them and readjust the way I use my teeth. He said that in the past, mouth guards just gave patients something new to chew on. This adjusts your bite and makes the headaches go away and I know it will work because I know what causes them-- my muscles cramp and my nerves get stressed.


The first part of solving a problem is knowing what it is. I am now aware of when I start to grit my teeth and even think bad thoughts. I used to be a competitive horse back rider and my coach would say, "Soft hands, soft eyes" when she saw my face start to tense and I would relax. (When my eyes tensed up my hands would as well. Then the horse thought it was supposed to speed up because it would feel the reigns tighten and then my thoughs would tighten and it would go faster than I wanted it to and the cycle would just compound itself!) In the past week, I have lost a couple of years from around my eyes because I have been aware of tension and been releasing it. My dentist is of course very happy with just the discovery of this-- this is better than Lancome!

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