by Helena Boyd, Energetics Institute, Perth, Western Australia
What Is Bruxism ?
Do you often wake up with a dull headache, ear ache or pain in your jaws ? Do your teeth seem super sensitive ? You may suffer from bruxism. Bruxism is the medical term for the unconscious act of grinding of teeth or the clenching of jaws, especially during deep sleep or while under stress. Damage can be so severe that it renders the teeth useless. Nocturnal bruxism occurs in an estimated 5% to 20% of adults. Bruxism occurs an average of 25 times per night, in four to five second episodes. Thus, people with bruxism may grind their teeth for more than two minutes during just one night's sleep.
What Causes Bruxism ?
The cause of bruxism is not completely agreed upon, but daily stress may be the trigger in many people. Some people probably clench and never feel symptoms. Whether or not bruxism causes pain and other problems may be a complicated mix of factors, how much stress you are under, how long and tightly you clench and grind, whether your teeth are misaligned, your posture, ability to relax, diet, sleeping habits, and other factors. Each person is probably different. Although this habit is unintentional, oral health specialists often point to excessive stress and certain personality types as typical causes of bruxism. Bruxism often affects persons with nervous tension such as anger, pain, or frustration, and/or persons with aggressive, hurried, or overly-competitive tendencies.
What Are the Effects of Bruxism ?
Many cases go undetected with no adverse effects, though some may result in mild morning headaches or earaches. In some extreme circumstances, night time grinding and clenching can wear down tooth enamel, chip teeth, increase temperature sensitivity, disrupt expensive dental treatments and cause severe facial pain and jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ). This disorder may include locking of the jaw in an open or closed position and difficulty chewing or even talking. The muscles of the jaws may build up over time, become hard, compacted and noticeably large. Their appearance becomes overdeveloped creating an aggressive or angry jaw line. The unconscious anger reinforces every night neural patterns of frustration, resentment and negativity.
What is Core Energetics ?
Core Energetics is a holistic body mind psychotherapy and psychology. It is a combination of physical and psychological techniques designed to identify areas of repressed tension and trauma in the body and release blockages in these areas. It is a unique and comprehensive approach to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Developed by Dr. John Pierrakos, this process is built on the foundation of the work of Jung and Freud who discovered the unconscious and Reich who discovered "life energy" as well as 83 years of scientific research in the areas of psychosomatic health and quantum physics. Wilhelm Reich, MD, father of all modern body psychotherapies and body-mind medicine, spent years researching what happens to the body under a vast range of stressors, and developed a therapy to help people not only deal with, but cure their neurosis based physical ailments. Physical exercises, deep breathing, psychodynamic techniques and various forms of massage are then used.
Core Energetics includes but goes beyond effective counselling to healing the root causes of depression, anxiety, asthma, migraines/ headaches, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, sleep disorders and stress as well as a complexity of physical illnesses. The techniques allow the body to release physical energy that holds specific problems and powerfully transforms character weaknesses into creativity, happiness, success and pleasure. Today, Core Energetics is based in 8 countries and has helped over 80,000 people world-wide.
What's the Core Energetics perspective of Bruxism ?
Bruxism is a symptom of repression. Imagine you are angry but it is inappropriate or you are frightened to express it. To control your feeling, you would tighten your back, arms, and jaw. This would keep your mouth shut and your arms from striking out. To keep yourself from crying you would tighten your chest, chin, jaw, and eyes. When you suppress particular emotions over a period of time, the suppression becomes habitual, chronic and unconscious. Emotions get frozen or somatized in the physical body. The natural, spontaneous flow of your life energy and your emotional expression becomes blocked or dulled and experience becomes narrow.
From when a baby is born to 12 months, the child is in the "sucking" phase and this relates to the lip development. Between 12 to 18 months is the "biting" phase. If the child was not allowed to express aggression at this stage in life, the jaws become locked or held back. If the child does not get the appropriate love from the mother at this stage, he grows up feeling deprived which causes suppressed anger and resentment. A set jaw can indicate determination, holding back of emotions as well as unconscious suppressed rage. The jaw when chronically tense can also hold intense fear.
In Core Energetics theory, there are seven segments in the body which interrelate and work in unison. These are ocular, oral, jaw/mandibular, chest, diaphragmatic, abdominal and pelvic. The oral segment of the body comprises the throat, mouth and jaw and neck areas.
When someone lives in a state of fear, anger, etc., the person's consciousness which is physically expressed as bio-electric energy, tends to go up the body and resides mostly in the head. We call these people "ungrounded" because there is an unconscious desire not to be in the body. If the energy isn't expressed it can lodge in the jaw, occipital or neck areas. An aspect of the work of Core Energetics is to move the energy from stuck areas and free the once-bound energy through exit points in the body.
What would a Core Energetics Therapist typically do with a client exhibiting Bruxism ?
Any client presenting with the condition of bruxism would undergo an initial interview to understand the life history, environments, family and other factors that existed and influenced their upbringing. From this holistic context of the origins of the client, the Core Energetics Therapist would examine the likely causes or stressors which trigger bruxism.
The psychodynamic therapy sessions will provide the client with a deeper understanding of its cause and effect based on analysis of unresolved unconscious patterns. In many instances this alone will reduce or eliminate the bruxism. In Core Energetics theory, the jaw has a negative pole, the top of head has a positive pole and the ocular segment has a neutral pole. Energy moves from the positive pole to the negative pole via the neutral pole. When strong emotions are unexpressed, it can cause tension in the head. A Core Energetics Therapist would use a combination of techniques to bring release in the jaw such as massaging the jaw, the mastoid muscle, under the hairline at the occiput at the base of the back of the skull.
Other exercises would be conducted to break through the diaphragmatic block, which also maps to the jaw area. There may be also a throat block in a client who has bruxism. When the unconscious mind creates a defence to keep the throat closed, it affects the whole lower half of the body and grinding of the teeth is an expression of the block. The therapist would show the client particular breathing exercises and connect the voice to open up the jaw area. The client may gently drum against the larynx lightly while exhaling with sound. During certain exercises, the client would vocally express using inarticulate sound and words. Most people have a repressed lower jaw. So the therapist may get the client to put the lower teeth in front of the upper teeth and combine this with energetic release using other areas of the body. In many cases, clients who accept the diagnosis that the cause of their symptoms is psychological (unconscious rage) will experience immediate improvement in the condition.
What are the results on Bruxism using Core Energetics ?
Core Energetics therapists have treated numerous clients over the years for bruxism, but normally in the context of a person who comes to therapy due to stress or psychosomatic illness and where bruxism has been present at a secondary issue or as one manifestation of a wider stress or repression issue.
Richard and Helena Boyd have developed effective techniques designed to specifically work with bruxism as the primary issue a client wants to address. This approach means the bruxism issue can be dealt with over a number of weekly or fortnightly sessions to eliminate this scourge of modern society, without the client needing to do any work beyond obtaining treatment for bruxism.
Richard and Helena work with the dental community on a referral basis when dealing with the cases of bruxism. The dentist fills in a referral form articulating the essential information.