On the Brokenness of Teeth

(BROKEN Teeth) Funny what anger can do. (Image from Dave McKean's cover illustration of David Almond's The Savage.)

(BROKEN Teeth) Funny what anger can do. (Image from Dave McKean’s cover illustration of David Almond’s The Savage.)

Last week, after poking around my mouth with a periodontal probe, my dentist told me:

You’ve fractured four teeth.

She looked at me accusingly.

They weren’t fractured the last time I saw you.

Four fractures???

Uh-huh, she told me. Have you been eating a lot of meat or nuts lately?

I shook my head in denial and bewilderment. Both meat and nuts are endangered species in my diet.

Well then, she concluded. You’re probably grinding your teeth in your sleep—and hard enough too to cause the teeth to break.

That’s life for you. You take one step forward above ground—and slide two steps backward below ground. My conscious mind is so impermeable that my unconscious mind has resorted to inscribing messages in my mouth. I don’t remember raging in my recent dreams—but then I never recall my dreams in any case. Now my dreams leave fossils through the fissures in my teeth.


It’s embarrassing, of course, because I always tell my yoga students to “unclench their jaws.” The body has fault lines: seams along which tension mounts and eventually releases. Sometimes the tremors happen quietly; sometimes they explode in seismic shifts. You can anticipate eruptions through the rigidities of jaws and shoulders and foreheads and necks.

But I’m a yoga teacher. My body has been reprogrammed to manifest pliancy and malleability. So even when I’m tense, an occupational imperative will command my shoulders to relax and my forehead to uncrease. (So yes, even in this domain, a tyranny of the body still exists.)

Little wonder then that my anger waits for the quiescence of sleep. (So that yes, even in this domain, the defiance of the body still persists.)

In this clash of tyrannies, the body always wins.


I still don’t know what’s triggering the grinding. I’m still not sure what’s caused this massive upwelling of underground resentment. My teeth, however, won’t survive a protracted investigation. So even if it’s uncomfortable—and more importantly, even if it’s ugly—I’ve taken to wearing a mouth guard when I sleep just to prevent further erosion of my already-worn enamel.

Hopefully, just hopefully, the hostilities end soon.


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