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Happy October!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we’re now in the season associated with the Metal Element. It’s a time of getting things in order.

Well, then, it must be the season of my mouth, or more accurately, my teeth, since I’ve been wearing braces that are working hard to get my teeth in order. I wonder if my braces will be more comfortable during the Autumn, since they are aligned with the season…? Well, I can only hope.

Here are a few posts related to the jaw and braces comfort, and also a blog where I’ve been chronicling the braces journey: What’s In A Smile?

I’ve had braces on my teeth for four months now, and I’ve been acutely aware of different ways I hold tension in my jaw and mouth.

Clenching teeth and holding tension in the jaw can lead to discomforts like headaches, neck and shoulder tightness, and TMJ.

Here are some tips to help relax the jaw.

Tongue to Roof of Mouth

I learned this in yoga. Gently allow the tip of your tongue to float up to the roof of your mouth. Your jaw should naturally drop and relax. You can try this any time you notice that you are clenching your teeth or furrowing your brow.

Acu Point: HOKU

This is one of the best overall stress-relieving points. Holding this point on the top of the hand can help with relieving so many discomforts–insomnia, headaches, constipation, shoulder and neck tension–that could be causing or exacerbated by tension in the jaw. Read on.

Bedtime Jaw Squeeze

If you wake up with soreness in your jaw and teeth, try this simple sqeeze before going to sleep. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and arms, and take a nice deep breath. Now gently press your palms on the sides of your face by your jaw. Clench your teeth and you can feel a muscle bulge; that’s where you want to place your palms. Relax your jaw–try the Tongue to Roof of Mouth explained above–and hold you palms firmly but comfortably on your jaws while you take five deep breaths, in and out. Release your hands, relax your shoulders, and take five more deep breaths. Repeat the squeeze and relaxing two more times.

(Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic pain, may contribute to sleep problems. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.)

Boy, was I thankful for having learned to be a better breather when I was under the dentist’s drill, the other day.  I felt some pain, but mostly fear and anxiety about this new experience of getting a filling.

Whenever I teach a class on acupressure,  I tell my students, “Your breath is your friend.”  So when you hold a point, take a few deep breaths.  Even if you’re not holding a point, take a few deep breaths.  Deep breaths help with relaxation.

And what I learned on the dentist’s chair is that I was able to access my calming breath, because I had done it before, in many ways.  Practicing acupressure points; giving wellness sessions; receiving bodywork; meditating; in my yoga practice.  So, hooray for all that attention to breath.

Tomorrow, I get braces on my teeth.  I’ve started a separate blog focused on that, but instead of making it a mere chronicle of braces, it focuses on “What’s in a Smile“.

Not that I want to jinx things with such gloomy titles as “anticipating pain”, but really, let’s face it, it will be painful.  I know.  I had braces as a teenager, many years ago.  This time, I  have more tools in my toolkit, including my acupressure and TCM training.  So, I’ll take the opportunity of this dental experience to explore more avenues to health and wellness.

So, the first thing I note is that the body part governed by the Water Element, which we’ve talked about this winter, is our bone structure.   And certaingly the teeth and jaw are the prime recipients of stress and movement for braces.  So, I guess you could say that I’m acting “in season” to start addressing my teeth.  After all, wintertime is a good season for soups and more “watery” culinary fare, so this is my chance to dig out those recipes and use the blender.

To be more specific about teeth and the meridians, it is said that there is a tooth-to-meridian association.  In other words, all the meridians are connected.  So one important intention for me to have it to pay attention to the pain, and understand that while I may feel most pain in my jaw and head, that since my body is an interconnected whole, it is possible that I may feel out of sorts in other areas of my body.