I made a joke about having to go to see the dentist right after work, like which was a worse fate, but I wasn’t really dreading it. I’ve never had a root canal, crown or even a cavity. Every morning at breakfast, my brother and I dutifully chewed a tiny pastel pill that tasted like cherry or orange or lime. Our teeth later appeared mottled, tiny striations of white so bright they made the rest of our teeth look dingy, but the fluoride had done its job.

I used to see a different hygienist for years and we formed an easy rapport. We talked about our kids and their school, sports and summer camps, though I could tell she was on a different, more vigilant plain of motherhood. I nodded a lot, and not just because her fingers were in my mouth. She had mastered the art of asking questions and making interesting statements when I could respond.

This new hygienist is not like her, though she is also not really new. I saw her once years ago when my regular hygienist was on vacation and she complimented me on my teeth and said some people just have better spit. I had never considered superior spit or that I had it. I secretly wished she could be my regular hygienist and, years later, the heavens conspired to change work schedules and I got my wish.

My second visit to the complimentary hygienist was something of a let down. She did not compliment my spit and asked me at the end if I floss, which is the same as saying please start. The only other thing I remember is she told me her and her college-aged daughter do this record club where they listen to albums during the week and then discuss over coffee. I thought that was really neat. Also, she correctly identified The Eye in the Sky over the office intercom, though I wanted to call it The Eye of the Storm, and the only other time it sounded so sharp and clear was from the velour backseat of the family Datsun in 1982.

I have some secrets to share now regarding teeth. You might not have to floss if you use a sonic toothbrush, though you still probably should, but only once a week or month, maybe less, but you didn’t hear it from me. The dentist will still come in and comment how pink and healthy your gums are and he won’t say keep up the great work with flossing because he probably owns a sonic toothbrush too. You can get a decent rechargeable one on the internet for like $40.

Another thing I learned about teeth is they shift when we get older, but it’s not always permanent. I had finally accepted that I can no longer chew meat on the right side of my jaw because tiny pieces get painfully lodged in the gum, and the second hygienist told me this mysterious condition may reverse itself. She said sometimes our teeth shift because of trauma, and not from brushing too hard, like we used to think.  I imagine her pouring over dental journals at night in front of a fire.

Although I can’t ask what she means because tools and fingers cram my mouth, she tells me teeth grinding is one kind of trauma. We talk about how our natural state in waking is often a clenched jaw, her moving her lips to tell me while I nod from the chair. I remember a period some years back where I routinely clenched so hard I actually took notice. My shoulders and jaw muscles were so tightly coiled, I walked around with a vague but nonetheless real sense of foreboding that I could not place. I used to force myself to periodically relax the muscles in my face and then savored the flood of relief as my jaws floated back to their natural place. I hadn’t thought about that in ages and how I unconsciously wear myself down. Sometimes I need reminding.


39 thoughts on “Unclench

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  1. Great post. Now that I’m sober I’m realising all of the things I’ve neglected, like teeth and flossing. I always postpone my trip to my hygienists. She’s a middle aged Irish lady who always comments on how I need to floss more. She is very strict and I always feel as though I’ve been properly told off after I’ve seen her. xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I once had to have scaling done in my 20s and vowed to go every 6 months. I schedule at the end of each appt because otherwise would put it off like I do with every type of medical appt. You are not alone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My friends and I used to have an expression: “Let’s drink ’til our gums recede!” Jokes on me. I’m a clencher, and it’s crushing my old fillings, of which I have plenty. Soft teeth, not lack of hygiene. I trust a hygienist over a dentist; less vested interest. My wife was hit in the front tooth as a child, and the tooth is essentially dead, slightly discoloured this faint tan. The dentist will tell her, “Oh, that’s going to have to come out.” Well, it’s been 40 years and counting… So much info in this fun post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Aye! I’m bad with teeth stuff too. I cringe when eating cold ice cream. I should be pretty well immune to it all now. After all, I broke my jaw and it’s held together with a pin and rod the size of a ball bearing. Oh well.

    Sonic toothbrush! I’m on it. I’m on it because I don’t floss, but I always really mean to floss. That might be the exact compromise I need to make with myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah … flossing. A habit I have never acquired with any regularity. I think my hygienist has given up.

    I’ve noticed more and more that I’m a clencher too. Although I’m not sure exactly how much I really clench. I just notice frequently when I’m trying to get to sleep that my face muscles are tight and I imagine that getting to sleep with stress in your face probably isn’t the easiest or best idea, so I relax the muscles around my mouth and it usually helps.

    A couple of years ago, my hygienist started telling me it looked like I was a teeth grinder.

    So who knows.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wore a mouth guard for a period when I was really stressed from work but it didn’t work, the mouth guard. Too tight. Did you ever try one of those? I had a friend who was such a stresser and clencher, he’d just destroy all those mouth guards, chew them up like dog toys in the night. Amen to recreational pot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine sleeping with something in my mouth. And what would I look like in dreams? It would be like that time my mom made me wear my head gear out in public (the car but still). But I might need a guard. Are you cured? Maybe grinding is from those displaced emotions you mentioned breaking free in yoga. Maybe yoga is the answer.


      1. Enjoy that feeling smarter feeling as long as possible. I had to abandon the book half way to leave it with my mom in Germany so maybe I’ll start over and we can riff on it. It’s dynamite.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey K….
    a good hygienist is so hard to find…
    and I enjoyed the tidbits you mentioned here – and felt like I was there with ya.
    laughing at the lady reading the journals around the fire.
    and speaking of journals, there is a lot of info about the dangers of fluoride (bad for the pineal gland and thyroid – and not to mention that it collects in the body…) and I regret giving my kids the treatments. I have never heard of the pills you chewed – but glad they helped – 🙂 –
    and interesting about the spit – I once heard this is why meth users have tooth decay – because they stop making helpful saliva!
    who knew that all that saliva was so darn helpful and it sounds like you have some good stuff…
    Lastly – I hate to even mention this – but I know your blog welcomes all kinds of thoughts and ideas – but for decades I heard that bruxism – teeth grinding – was shown to have a parasite connection – and so was the need to chew and chew – and I one worked for a principle who had to chew gum all the time because she needed to chew.
    It stopped after she did a year of cleansing.
    some teeth grinding and need to chew – like crunching ice…. is related to anemia too – which might also have a root cause of parasitic infection (leading to malabsorption and toxins…)
    just had to mention it – but I also personally experienced it first hand after my major years of cleansing = a quieted demeanor and no need to chew… hm
    anyhow, enjoyed your post and thanks for letting me share that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of things to chew over (har har) here. Cleansing is not my thing though. Tried it a couple times and found it too harsh. Interesting to think of internal causes for grinding rather than external (stress).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi – well thanks for the reply.
        and with cleansing – keep in mind that there are “many” options and I can see how some phases can be harsh.
        and I am sorry if you had rough days.
        I also know that for years I was not aware of the options (confused by so many choices) and then I also had to learn that the other crucial part to cleansing is to “rebuild the terrain”
        and going slow is better. It does not mean there will not be some harsh periods – depending on what a person has going on inside, but some very gentle cleanses can be done without any harshness.
        For example, check out “health plus, inc.’s” different options. I have a friend who is reluctant to do any cleanses (and I can understand her reluctance) so she tried a bottle of their blood cleaner herbs and after one bottle noticed feeling better.

        I know that Kroeger herbs 30 day candida cleanse is also noted as being a bit easier (than some that use henna…)-
        but the number one thing I suggest for ease and mildness – and effectiveness – is Sonne’s clay – or P & B shakes. The P & B stands for Psyllium and the B is for Bentonite clay.

        sonne’s clay (called #7) is extra special because they clean out the mica and it is collodial clay – so it has a charge and it physically attracts any pathogens and pulls them out. It costs under 20$ on lucky vitamin.
        and instead of only psyllium, I use an apple pectin mix 9from NOW and also bought on LV) – and you take it twice a day (two hours away from any vitamins or meds) – and it is simple the most powerful and gentle detox around. It has to be taken with fiber or it will not be moved out of your system fast enough.

        seriously K, I am writing about this right now for some tips on healing I have been putting together.

        and some folks also do an annual Sonne’s seven day cleanse – it is also mild – no cramps – gentle and and can be done while working.

        and sorry to ramble – but you know this stuff means so much to me – but I Gave one of my yoga teachers a bottle of sonne’s caly (and now fiber) and she started it on january 1 – and last week she went on and on and on about how she had a feeling of wellness she has not felt in a long while.

        I heard about P & B shakes on a site called “curezone” –

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Last cleanse I did had bentonite clay. It started out mild, anticlimactic really, but after a couple of weeks I just felt run down and worn out. I’ll keep in mind what you say. I know you’re an expert source and I appreciate your knowledge.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. well thanks K…
        and at first i was like – no way am I an expert source…
        but then I realized I have been learning about it on and off since 2002 – and then I do read about it a lot….
        so I it is an area I know well… but still learning so much.
        but do keep in mind that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs are key for wellness – but what we need changes as we heal and grow.

        and maybe later we can talk more about which clay you used….
        and sorry you were feelign worn down….
        don’t forget the “healing crisis” or “herxheimer effect” is sometimes the cause – like we have feeling off days as we heal and repair. but this is why going slow – or pausing is key.
        and my biggest advice to anyone who just wants to nurture their health is to consider….
        an herbal liver supplement – because the liver is the body’s filter and so it needs support before during and after any cleanse – or without any cleanse.
        I like herbal formuals best because mostherbs work in teams.

        people also need a good b-complex – I like Jarrow b-right (and I mentioned this in my chapter in Lady by The River) but niacin flushing on the weekends is a powerful heavy metal detox and it just pushes pathogens out. but many folks cann not get used to the flush feel – and it took me month. (see dr. saul at doctor yourself dot com)
        and then I suggest folks eat a good fat – cod liver oil and flax are the top ones – from the bottle – by the teaspoon – it has an elixir effect throughout the body.

        and just adding some cultured foods – like cottage cheese, keifer, kraut… can help restore the flora.

        in closing (and thanks again for letting me ramble, but this is my passion) but a lot of people have malabsorption and leaky gut – even some skinny folks – and so they need little things to help that.
        Like Trader joe’s Cal mag in a green base has a touch of Betaine HCL in it and so if anyone has gut issues (and so many do – cos of antibiotics and candidiasis) well that little bit of HCL penetrates and allows the person to absorb.

        because we are not what we eat…
        we are what we absorb from what we eat…

        and the multi that rescued me was Logos Thymic Formula – many of their products are overpriced, but all are made for absorption – and – the Thymic formula is a healing formula – the guy that started the formula was a surgeon who got Hep – and so this formula is a healing liver blend – and it especially helps those who are healing from something chronic. It does not sound like you are – but many of us in my health group tried the Thymic formula reluctantly – and only because they had a money back guarantee…. and it is the best healing multi around.

        very last comment – getting back to sonne’s clay #7 – it should always be used with fiber and not all bentonite clay is the same – sonne’s is collodial and so it is special….
        did you use sonne’s

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What kind of heresy are you preaching??? Not flossing. I am on the sonic thing and flossing twice a day. I am going to tell my dentist about you. Expect to get lots of hateful comments

    (humor of course)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I am preaching to those who already don’t floss but feel guilty about it. When my teeth fall out, you’ll have the last laugh. I’ll have 10 extra minutes each day to clean my dentures.


  8. I am a clenched. I wear a night guard. Otherwise I spend the night cracking my teeth and exhausting my jaw and wake up with severe headaches.
    In yoga we use a bind called jiva Banda. You gently touch the tip of the tongue to the back of the teeth where the enamel and the flesh meet.
    Gently, like a butterfly on a flower.

    Try it. Your entire mouth and jaw soften. My goal in life is to be that way naturally. For now, I try to notice and relax!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m am an old nonflosser. Because of this and even using a sonic care for the last 3 years, I still see the hygienist 3 or 4 times a year to keep me away from the periodontist! So insurance pays for two cleanings and I pay for two. I’m better at flossing now that I’m sober and have time at night (not passing out) and time in the morning (not hungover) in addition alcohol reeks havoc on your gums so it’s a win win. I have a sweet young hygienist but I still dread going.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am like you. I get my teeth cleaned faithfully every six months. I make the next appointment when I finish one or I would never remember or go. I wore braces for years. I have a silver filling in every molar from eating penny candy out of my grandmother’s store. A 1982 Datsun? Do you remember what model?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You know, it’s a natural thing for a barber or hair stylist to talk to you as you get your hair cut. But when dentists and hygienists try to carry on a conversation with you while their scraping and poking and flossing and scrubbing your chompers, that chaps my hide.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sadly my mouth is a caven of metal. I’ve had crowns too the result of a boot in the face in a school rugby game. Typical too just as I dived on the loose ball to score a try this other guy took a wild kick at it.
    I’m in the middle of more work including an impacted wisdom tooth needing to come out. My wife laughs as I floss and use an electric toothbrush go to the hygienist regularly she doesn’t and needs nothing. My spit clearly isn’t as good as hers

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t know what I love more… the post or all the admissions of non-flossing in the comments!

    In the mid-80’s I worked at a Rite-Aid, and they had a playlist of about 4 songs played on a continuous loop. Eye in the Sky (Alan Parsons Project, I believe) was one of them, and Captain of My Heart was another. Any time I hear either of those songs, I am transported back in time to price checking the dental floss (figured I’d stick with the theme)…


  14. I keep missing your posts!
    Somehow I am locked into only one of them.
    You got LOTS of comments on teeth!!
    I could give you a LONG list of my teeth problem,
    But I won’t!
    I’m just happy we live in at least a better day and age for teeth problems!
    Imagine living a long time ago!


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