That’s right…..I grind my teeth when I sleep! Now I know this is not the worst thing in the world by any means, but it can lead to all sorts of other issues such as TMJ, dental problems and even neck and back pain. Most folks know if they are a grinder, however, sometimes someone is totally unaware that they are doing it. That’s probably due to the fact that it often occurs when you are sleeping! Since I know I am not alone in this struggle I wanted to share my story and tell you about something that I have been experimenting with.
I was initially “diagnosed” back in the 80’s and my dentist at the time recommended a night guard. For those of you who are not familiar with a night guard you are soooo lucky!! A night guard is a plastic mold of your teeth that you wear to protect them when you clench or grind. Similar to what athletes wear only not quite as big and bulky. It took me a while to come around to the idea, but eventually I decided to give it a try. It was a love/hate relationship from the start but I wore that night guard faithfully every night. Although I knew this very expensive piece of plastic was protecting my teeth, I began to realize that I was grinding my teeth more when I wore it. Go figure! After a while I started to experience headache pain and tightness in my jaw which I did not have before. I tried to tough it out, but eventually I gave up and stopped wearing the night guard.
I thought I was doing okay without it, but every time I went in for a cleaning my hygienist would tell me otherwise. She said I had these little cracks in my molars which were probably a result of the grinding. I knew I should be wearing the night guard but I kept putting it off. And then it happened…..I was eating some nuts and one of my molars cracked. My first thought…..oh crap! My second thought….WHY did I stop wearing my night guard?! The combination of grinding and having old fillings created the perfect storm for this to happen. Since most of my fillings were about the same age, I was worried that this was just the beginning of more cracked teeth. I won’t bore you with all the details but one thing led to another and I ended up removing all of my old mercury fillings and getting new crowns. 8 all together!! I know!! 2015 was a very expensive year for my mouth! Now that I had all of these new crowns, I wanted to protect my investment so I decided to try the night guard again. I had a new one made but once again I was grinding even more. Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated.
All of this got me thinking. Why was I grinding in the first place? What was I thinking about or worrying about while I slept? If I could figure that out then maybe I could get rid of my night guard for good!! And this, my friends, is what led me to try hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy is a tool that is used to promote healing and positive behavioral changes. As such, it could be considered a type of psychotherapy. During hypnosis our conscious mind is suppressed which allows our subconscious mind to be more open. Our subconscious mind is the part of our brain that holds all of our life experiences, our memories, our beliefs and also our fears, anxieties, and irrational thoughts. When these thoughts get “stuck”, they begin to drive our behavior. But if we are able to “reprogram” these thoughts, then we have the potential to make lasting change. And that is where hypnosis can help.
Hypnotherapy can be used to treat a wide range of conditions such as phobias, anxiety, and addictions. It can also be used to help with sleep problems, pain management, child birth and, my favorite….teeth grinding.
I think we’ve all seen those scenes in movies or on TV where someone is hypnotized and then they are asked to do something crazy such as bark like a dog. Well that is exactly what hypnotherapy is not. Although you can go into a trance like state, you are not in a deep sleep and you are always in control. However, there is one caveat. A key component of hypnotherapy is that the patient has to be highly motivated to make the change.
I knew I really wanted to stop grinding my teeth so I decided to give it a try. I contacted Laurie Stephen (http://mindfulhypnosiscenter.com) who is a hypnotherapist in my office. During our first session, I filled out a short questionnaire and then we discussed my issues. Before I knew it I was sitting very comfortably in a lounge chair with soft music playing and Laurie was guiding me through some visualizations. And then I was out! I could faintly hear Laurie’s voice but I was definitely in the zone. I am not sure how long I was in that sleepy state but all of a sudden I could hear Laurie’s voice again and I was able to follow her guided imagery. When we finished, I was super relaxed and my jaw felt surprisingly loose. Laurie gave me some homework to do which consisted of some affirmations to further solidify the work we did. That night I slept like a baby, I did not wear my night guard and no grinding….yeah!!
The following week things were going well. I was diligent about reciting my affirmations and I was not grinding my teeth. I had a second session with Laurie which was another positive experience. After my second session though I got a little off track. I was very busy with some work projects and I was also going out of town. I could feel the stress swirling around me. I wasn’t practicing my affirmations as much and I noticed I was grinding my teeth again. I started to get discouraged. Then it occurred to me….I have 57 years of “stuff” lodged in my subconscious mind. Is it realistic to think that all of that can be changed in a couple of weeks? Not really.
I started on this journey for a reason and I am not giving up. Making the commitment to changing something in your life and then taking the necessary steps can be incredibly empowering. Our own doubts and insecurities (hello subconscious mind) can throw us off track, but when you are determined to make the change, you will hold yourself accountable no matter what gets in your way. So, I put my big girl pants on and scheduled another appointment with Laurie. I am getting back on track with my affirmations and I am determined to succeed.
Do you have something in your life that you would like to change? Start where you are and embrace a mindset that allows you to create what you want. Whether you choose hypnosis, affirmations, visualization or positive thinking, you have the ability to manifest your deepest desires whatever that may be. Enjoy the journey because it is going to be amazing!!