The Grinder

portrait photo of Rob Lowe

It’s a Rob Lowe-Fred Savage comedy that was cancelled too soon. It’s also my new nickname, given by my dentist. I’m the grinder. And I’d like to warn you about a recommended solution that went horribly wrong. Caution: Mentions of Rob Lowe have now passed and there will be no further Rob Lowe info in this post.* If you require more Rob Lowe, please scroll back up to the top and look at him again. 

My dentist recommended a custom night guard. I’ve been down that road before with mixed results and now, without workplace insurance, I’m reluctant to fork out the cash when there’s no guarantee it will help. He suggested I get one of the off-the-rack versions at the drug store to try out first. Done.

My local Shopper’s had about half a dozen brands to choose from, including three-day disposable guards and those that lasted longer. I decided to go for a six-month version and the pharmacist’s assistant said, “save a few bucks and get the store brand, it’s the same thing”. So I did, following directions to the letter: boiled it, set it and put it in its little case. It seemed to be okay for about five nights before the “incident”.

I woke up with a start at 1:35 am, the left side of my jaw pulsing with stabs of pain. Half asleep, I spontaneously spit out the plastic guard and put my hand to my jaw. It felt swollen but even worse, it felt off-centre. When I tried to open my mouth wider it felt like my jaw had become unhinged as if I were a snake attempting to eat prey too big for my mouth. Panic rose in the back of my throat and I sprinted to the bathroom to see what I could see.

There was no visual evidence of anything amiss but it was awfully sore. Sucker-punch-to-the-jaw sore, I imagine, having never been punched in the face. Attempting to open my pie hole failed as sharp pain threw up a stop sign. I took an Aleve and went back to bed, laying on my unpunched side. Pain relievers – even Aspirin – make me drowsy, so I was able to sleep as the Aleve took hold.

When I woke a few hours later, things felt more-or-less back to normal, with just a little lingering pain. That lasted until lunch when I decided to have a smoothie. It gave me an ice cream headache and revived the jaw pain at its peak. I couldn’t do anything except wince and wait for it to pass. Putting your tongue against the roof of your mouth eases the ice cream headache, but does nothing to help jaw pain. The ridiculous thing is, I immediately did it again! Poor Derek was forced to watch a Stooges movie with just one Stooge, sitting across from him in agony in the Wallaceburg Harvey’s.

This is partly my fault: I’m a freak for looking up reviews and doing my research and this time, I skipped it, foolishly believing they all looked pretty much the same. Loads of reviews would have told me that over-the-counter guards are too thick for most people and can cause pain and interrupt sleep. It turns out that professional night guards are available through private sellers, and not only the dentist. It’s a route worth considering because you’re – sorry Dr. Edwards – cutting out the middle man. They’re $100-$200 bucks instead of $700-$1000.

Still another theory is that night grinding is a symptom of sleep apnea, which I already know I have. The more weight I carry, the worse the apnea gets. I also know I’m slowly inching my way toward needing a C-PAP machine but I’m putting it off as long as I can. Until, I hope, science comes up with something less cumbersome to treat the condition.

In my worst nightmares, I’ve ground away all my teeth and spend every night hooked up to a machine that makes me sound like Darth Vader. The future isn’t very sexy, eh? Certainly not as sexy as, say, *Rob Lowe. (I lied above. THIS is the last mention!)

3 thoughts on “The Grinder”

  1. Lisa, Get a real night guard. I had been grinding and clenching for years. Night guards help.

  2. For what it’s worth, you’re going through a couple of the most stressful experiences of a person’s lifetime: changing lanes (hugely) in a career that’s always been a six lane highway….and moving. You’re uprooting, sorting, disposing, replacing – it’s all HUGE. Just enormous. One of those two events would be enough to have your teeth down to the tiniest of corn kernels. But no, you’ve got two. So that’s my 2c worth – rounded down to nothing in our penny-free society – and no bloody wonder you’re tense at night! I promise you it gets better.

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