This is a human adult skull. The teeth are flat from a lifetime of clenching and grinding, gnashing the jaws and teeth side to side. The bone loss, surrounding the roots of the teeth, decreases the tooth’s support. In a living person, this is call “gum recession,” exposing sensitive root surfaces. This is a parafunctional habit everyone does. Almost, I have met two individuals who didn’t, teaching at my university.
Asked to go over a student’s treatment plan; I looked into the patient’s mouth. “Wow, you do not have any stress in your life.” “That’s a strange question, coming from a dentist.” You have the teeth of a fifteen-year-old in a sixty something mouth, “What do you do to cope with stress?” “I am a yogi and the daughter of two yogis, living a yogic lifestyle of meditation, peace and a vegetarian diet for my entire life.” The second individual told me this great story. “When I was twenty-one, I came home from work in a bad mood. At dinner, I made my wife and young child cry. Upset with myself, I left home to seek the advice of my parish priest. Arriving back home, standing on my porch, I created an invisible coat rack. I put a coat there with pockets full of the thoughts from my job. I vowed not to think of my work at home to protect my loved ones.”
I was a freshman dental student, learning to examine on a fellow classmate, my professor said I was a “bruxer.” What’s that? You will learn about it in your junior year. That night in the library, I read about “Bruxism” and its causes, mind and body stress. The only treatment is a mouth guard, an orthotic, wearing it at night to protect the oral tissues. Being a dental technician, I made myself a guard and was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t grinding my teeth anymore. My teeth had the signs but I was not actively grinding on the plastic guard.
Teeth are not supposed to touch. When we are relaxed, speaking, chewing food, our teeth do not touch in a way that could harm our tissues. When we swallow, the average is two thousand times a day, our teeth touch lightly. But when we react to mental stress, we clamp down with muscular force, unaware for long periods of time. TMD (Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorders) includes a huge selection of head and neck pains. With patients, I have them keep a journal, noticing when their teeth touch when stressed. Understand the thoughts, places and people with at the time, trying to discover the triggers. A patient was circling my office looking for parking. At one place she noticed clenching her teeth. Walking around the same streets, she clenched her teeth at the same spot. Looking up, she saw a whiskey billboard advertisement. This was the whiskey her abusive father drank, being beaten many times as a child.
What do you think?