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Bring In The (Night)Guards!: My Fight Against Bruxism and TMJ Disorder

Grinding be gone!

Grinding. It's not just a dance.

Before the Dude and I go to sleep, there is something we can never forget to do before we turn out the lights.

Pop in our nightguards.

We’re major teeth-grinders in our house, otherwise known as Bruxism. For me, this problem is not just at night. I find myself clenching and grinding my teeth when I’m stressed or anxious which, ever since I became a mama, is more often than not.

Unfortunately, Bruxism is not my only issue. I also deal with TMJ Disorder. It’s fairly common to suffer from both.

I remember waking up one morning around the age of 16 with a splitting headache and my jaw in a painful locked position. I couldn’t move it at all and I was terrified. I happened to be visiting with my dad at the time who managed to calm me down and massage my jaw enough for me to move it again. From that day forward, my jaw started to click or pop every time I opened my mouth. It was also occasionally very tender and painful. My dentist at the time shrugged at my complaint and said it was quite common. He also mentioned that there wasn’t much that could be done. When I asked him why this happened, he blamed the problem on the two years of braces (with rubber-bands) I wore from the ages of 13-15. I remember thinking, geesh, had I known the consequences I would’ve lived with snaggle-teeth! Whether or not the braces are to blame can’t be proven. There are many theories as to why 5-15% of the population is affected with a TMJ disorder.

At this point, nearly 18 years later, I still cannot fully open my mouth without having to actually move my jaw in a way that makes an annoying popping sound. The pain and tenderness is something that comes and goes, but I’ve lived with it long enough to know what to do about it. From my own personal experience and based on all the information I’ve gathered over the years, there’s not a whole lot that can be done. There are a number of remedies out there, from pain meds and Botox (hell no!) to yoga and CBT therapy. Being that I am trained and educated in CBT methods, I can easily incorporate what I know into my life. Admittedly, the relaxation methods I use can work very well for me during the day…but when I’m grinding my teeth at night, not so much. I also use massage exercises, acupuncture, and chiropractic methods.  Now, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m a huge fan of acupuncture and chiropractors.  Acupuncture and chiropractic treatments can work very well for my TMJ /Bruxism issues but, I have to admit, just like almost everything else I’ve tried they can only offer temporary respite. (continues…)

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Mental Monday: When Talk Isn’t Cheap. A Guide To Finding A Good Therapist.


A different era of therapy that was simply...'Mad'

Finding a good therapist is very similar to dating. You’re not going to connect with everyone and, chances are, you might have to try out a few different types to find *The One.*

When you’re dating someone and you just don’t feel a connection, you probably won’t continue to see that person…right? Well, the same should go for a therapist. When you see a therapist, whether it’s for 10 weeks, 10 months, or for 10 years (you know, for the Woody Allen types), there needs to be a good connection, a good rapport, and a huge level of trust. Without those essential components, which we all know are necessary for any healthy relationship, it’s just not gonna work. Of course, trust and rapport don’t usually happen overnight. It will probably take a few sessions or more to figure out whether or not the therapist is a good fit or not.  It’s OK if the therapist is not the right for you. The best thing to do is tell them. Most therapists don’t take it personally and will even help refer you to someone else. Don’t you wish bad dates would do the same?

The Process of Therapy

There is something important to keep in mind: the therapist is not your friend.

Therapy is and should be hard work and a good therapist will challenge you. Often. Some clients take issue with the challenging stuff because it can be a painful process. The thing to remember is that a therapist is not out to hurt you but rather to help pave a way for you to get to a better place in your life. Good therapists are a support system. They not only help provide you with tools to help you but they also point out the your strengths, some of which may be buried beneath internal conflicts and everyday struggles. A therapist doesn’t give you advice about how to live your life. They won’t tell you that you should leave your spouse, quit your job, or give tough-love to an unruly teenager.  They don’t know the answers for you because they will never know you better than you know yourself. They don’t live with the consequences of your life choices. But what they can do is help shine a light on those internal resources and strengths within yourself to help get you to the place you want to be. (continues…)

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Mental Monday: Sleepless in America

Sleepless in America is the first blog post in a new series called Mental Monday. Every Monday, I will be discussing a new topic within the realm of mental health.

Sleep. We all need it but, not surprisingly, very few of us get enough of it. A 2002 National Sleep Foundation study revealed that about 74% of all American adults experience symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week, or more. Insomnia could mean a variety of things – not able to go to sleep within 15 minutes of laying down, getting up too early, waking up periodically through the night, and not feeling rested the next morning even after an adequate amount of sleep. The research indicated that 39% get less than 7 hours of sleep each weeknight and 37% are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with daily activities. 20% of Americans use sleep medications and 15% use sleep medications every night. Women make up the majority (63%) of the people who suffer most from insomnia.  In addition, 66% of people dealing with insomnia have children in the household.

Shocking? Not really.

It doesn’t take much to figure out why parents, and specifically women, have trouble sleeping. Parenting and anxiety tend to go hand-in-hand. There is so much to worry about – money, mortgage, marriage, soccer practice, homework, paying for college, will he get into college?, crazy people, pedophiles, car accidents, H1N1…whew! It’s enough to make any parent stay up with worry every night. But who has the time to worry about all that stuff during the day? We’re too busy being pulled in a million directions and thinking about the next thing we need to do…or just don’t have time to do. Often enough, our anxieties surface much more at night than during the day. As soon as we lay our tired bodies down to sleep, those anxious worries and thoughts may begin to ruminate. It’s hard to go to sleep and stay asleep when there are a billion worrisome thoughts racing around in our minds.

If anxiety is the key factor for restless and altogether sleepless nights, there are many options for people. We all know that medication is one of them. Have you ever taken sleep medication? Chances are you have. The number of people who have tried and/or regularly use sleep medication steadily increases each year. For one thing, there are a lot more options for the sleepless, from herbal and natural remedies such as Melatonin and Tryptophan to over-the-counter sleep aids such as Tylenol PM and Nytol to prescription drugs like Ambien and Trazodone. If you choose to take a sleep medication, whether it’s herbal or prescription, it’s important to do your homework beforehand. Just like any other medication, there can be side effects and possible interactions with other medications. And for prescription medication, especially, there is also a risk for dependence, lowered tolerance, and rebound insomnia. (continues…)

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