Stress Causing Cracked Teeth or Grinding?
Ah, stress…! We are all too familiar with it, from the impacts of the pandemic, finances, racism, the political situation, etc. One of the ways stress affects people is muscle tension. Our bodies tense to brace against injury or attack. We also tense to hold back emotions or expressions we consider unpleasant or unacceptable. This tension generally happens unconsciously. While it is sometimes necessary to tense the muscles in the jaw to hold back emotions, doing it consistently can cause significant damage, such as with temporomandibular disorders (in the temporomandibular joint, incorrectly referred to as TMJ), grinding at night or cracked teeth. A simple exercise can help to release tension from your jaw. This is an important exercise to add to your daily stress relief routine.
An article in the NY Times, from Sept 8, 2020, titled: “A Dentist Sees More Cracked Teeth: What’s Going On” confirms this. The dentist, Dr. Tammy Chen, DDS, stated that she had seen more cracked teeth in a 6 week period (from mid July to early Sept), than in the previous 6 years! That was in September, before COVID cases skyrocketed and escalation from the US elections.
The masseter muscle of the jaw is one of the strongest muscles in the body https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle. You can find this muscle by putting your fingers on your face at the back of your jaw. Go to the hinge of your jaw and come slightly forward. If you press in with your thumbs you will likely feel some pain. You have likely found your masseter muscles along with your temporomandibular joint. The jaw muscles can exert tremendous force, necessary for activities such as chewing and biting Clenching these muscles, therefore, requires significant effort (even if we are unaware of the clenching), especially if we clench chronically. Releasing these tight muscles will take conscious effort.
Background (you can skip this and go straight to the exercise, but it will give you some info about the complexity of the issue.) As a Bioenergetic therapist, I have learned about some of the reasons people chronically clench their jaw. For some people, chronic jaw tension starts in infancy. The mouth is one of the first ways an infant makes…