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When Himself and I go to bed at night there’s a beautiful moment: in perfect harmony, we insert our bite plates.
He has two – mainly to keep his teeth straight – and I have one, to stop me grinding my teeth to dust.
“Night, Champ,” I say.
“Sleep well, Rocky,” he replies.
I fall asleep, and my jaw wakes up. I don’t know why I clench and grind, but it’s happened all my adult life.
Last October, I brought my old bite plate to the dentist because I’d finally chomped through it. It took eight years.
He ordered me a new one, so I was surprised to find myself at the dentist again last week, waving this sub-standard mouthguard at him.
“I think they’re using cheap materials,” I said. “Look, I’ve gone straight through it in less than a year.”
Apparently I’m not the only one.
In the last twelve months, my dentist tells me, the thing he’s treated most is grinding.
People who once gritted their teeth occasionally, people with only mild “bruxism” – the medical term taken from the Greek for “gnashing the teeth” – are now gnashing through the night, wearing away their all-important enamel.
Bruxism causes headaches, earache, face pain, a sore neck, and clicking, locking jaws. Also, you could lose your teeth.
My dentists looks in my mouth and sighs.
“I know you wear your plate every night,” he says – the fact that I’ve ground it into peaks and troughs is a giveaway – “but I think you’re unconsciously grinding during the day too. There’s a lot more wear on your teeth.”
But why? Stress, he says.
Stress causes gnashing of teeth (beating of breast is presumably next), and everyone – it doesn’t matter how chilled you are – is suffering from increased levels of stress now.
A global pandemic tends to do that, especially as deaths get closer to home, especially as new variants cause new concerns, especially as we worry about our families, and the future, and then there are floods, famines, fires, droughts, climate change, war, work, money, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse to fret about too.
It’s relentless. “You’ll have to meditate more,” the dentist says.
“By which you mean start meditating,” I say. He laughs. “Or maybe drink more…”
So this breakfast gin? It’s on doctor’s orders.