Bruxism - noun - the habit of unconsciously grinding one's teeth, usually done during sleep; often associated with stress.
As is often the case, the idea for this post came to me during my dog walk. As you can see by the picture, Holly has taken to logging! It occurred to me that this may be her way of dealing with the stress of encountering bigger dogs. She is a rescue and her nervous behaviour indicates that she was never socialized.
Watching her bite on her log, I was reminded about a Dr. Oz segment on Oprah. He suggests biting down on a cork to relax the masseter muscle and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). I teach less obtrusive techniques to help you undress your stress when you don't want to put a cork in it!
I wonder if Holly instinctively feels the change in her stress levels when she bites down on a log? Or does it serve as distraction, shifting her attention away from the uncertainty of encountering other dogs? Perhaps it's a combination of both.
Then, I started to think about how bruxism is often attributed to stress. A cause and effect scenario. Stress equals bruxism. What if it isn't the result of being stressed, but instead, an instinctive way to relieve stress? Dr. Oz's cork technique, but without the cork!
I believe that we all have an innate wisdom. We often unconsciously do the things that help us alleviate pain or stress. For example, what do you do when you have a headache? You probably hold your head or rub the location of the pain. Did you know that what you are doing is re-establishing neural connections between the body and the brain? It's also likely that you are hitting on energy points, otherwise known as acupuncture points.
Get curious about some of the things you do when you are struggling with emotional, mental or physical pain. Why do you do them? Have you since discovered that there is a physiological explanation? I hope you'll find it as fascinating as I do.
For decades, whenever I had a particularly rough day, I would brew a pot of Earl Grey tea. Later, I learned that bergamot, the essential oil that gives Earl Grey it's distinctive taste, is considered calming and restorative. A perfect recipe to initiate a balance between the two branches of the nervous system. I had unconsciously recognized that this cuppa' was just what I needed. I'll need to quantify this experiment and see what happens to my heart rhythms.
Does my theory that people grind their teeth as a way to alleviate some of their stress change things for you? It's subtle, but sometimes that subtlety means the difference between a negative and a positive - a shift in perception.
I'd love an opinion from Dr. Oz or a neuropyschologist, and you, of course!