Micah and I both grind our teeth. It’s not too surprising, he’s got the stress of writing a dissertation and teaching at the same time, I can get tightly-wound (especially if I’ve been working on websites right up until the minute I go to bed…which happens some nights). Neither of us thinks we do it every night, but we’ve both woken up mornings with the distinct impression that we were just clenching/grinding.
Last week, we saw the dentist who said we were definitely grinding and recommended mouth guards for both of us. I don’t like spending money and I worry about being upsold, but this time I was 100% on board with his recommendation.
Spending on your health is frugal. A little preventative care now can save you a bundle down the road.
I’m especially aware of the need for good dental hygiene because of the stark example my sister & I got from our father growing up. During his 20s, my father neglected his oral hygiene and dentist visits. Even though he tried to take care of them after that, he ended up having to get them all out and replaced with permanent dentures.
It was a painful surgery, involving posts being drilled into his jaw. Apparently regular dentures wouldn’t work right with his mouth, so he didn’t have other good options. Watching him go through that “scared us straight” on brushing and flossing. I’d much rather put in a little time and get regular dentist checkups than ever go through that. Plus, it wasn’t covered by insurance and I remember being astounded by how much it cost.
While grinding my teeth probably doesn’t put me at risk for anything that bad, it already means I sometimes wake up with pain in my temporomandibular joint (“TMJ” or jaw joint). In my senior year of high school, it was so bad that I actually had to give my jaw rest for a week. Grinding is likely to lead to teeth chipping and cracking down the road (and all the expense of getting them fixed or replaced). It can also wear down the protective enamel and leave the teeth super-sensitive to temperature.
All in all, bad. Even if I’m not doing it every night, it’s quite likely to cost me down the road.
With our insurance, the custom mouth guards will cost about $100 each. I’m going to take the money from the part of Micah’s salary that we put towards my grad school fund. That way it won’t hurt our debt repayment or take money out of our budget or regular savings. We could also do the “boil and bite” ones from CVS, but I believe these guards last longer and fit better. I’d rather get quality.
It’d be more frugal just to stop grinding our teeth, and it’s definitely made me think about ways I can avoid stress, especially before bed. But unfortunately there’s no way to just turn off the grinding and I don’t want to put pressure on myself to find one before any damage gets done (which would ironically probably lead to more grinding…).
The dentist noted while we were there that he sees more and more people in their twenties who grind their teeth. I’m not surprised—economy, general pressure to succeed, war, uncertain future… I guess it’s a good time to be in mouth guards.