The Facts About Clenching & Grinding
Common symptoms of bruxism include a sore jaw, headaches, and earaches. Causes vary, but they may include stress, anxiety, tension, misaligned teeth, posture, diet, sleeping habits, and other factors. Bruxism is most prevalent in women and generally found in about one-third of the population.
Individuals who react to stress with anger, pain, frustration, aggression, or competition are most commonly affected. People with bruxism may have other biting habits, such as biting fingernails, pencils, lips, or the insides of their cheeks.
Constant clenching and grinding of the teeth can not only cause the aforementioned symptoms, but it may also contribute to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction, which has a long list of side effects associated with pain in the head and neck. Teeth rubbing together consistently will result in surface wear over time, which can cause significant damage to your teeth.Without intervention tooth wear can progress to the point where all teeth in a patient’s mouth are worn all the way down to the gum-line. Additionally clenching and grinding will cause gum recession and may even cause your teeth to get loose over time. Insomnia, eating disorders, and depression can result from bruxism as well if it’s left untreated.
A Solid Solution
How can you stop an unconscious habit? A thorough evaluation will allow us to check your teeth, tissues, and muscles. If we determine that you suffer from bruxism, we’ll create an orthotic appliance, also called a nightguard or splint, to prevent or protect your teeth from grinding and clenching habits. Many types of nightguards exist, and patients react differently to the various styles. If one appliance does not work, another may. In many cases, simply wearing a nightguard will eliminate the problem.
Some practices that can relieve symptoms of bruxism include stress and anxiety management, focused facial relaxation, massage and stretching of face and neck muscles, applying ice or wet heat, proper rest, eating soft foods, and hydrating the body. If your teeth were damaged because of bruxism or if we find TMJ Disorder to be a factor, our team will repair and treat you to provide complete relief.
Managing Stress to Help Your Jaw Rest
You may spend most of your life unaware of the important little triangular-shaped joints located in front of your ears. Lined with cartilage, these joints move with a smooth, gliding motion. Under normal conditions, they join your lower jaw and temporal bone, allowing your mouth to open and close easily. However, stress or an improper bite can cause the joints to become misaligned, exposing nerve endings to create pain. In fact, the temporomandibular joint is highly sensitive to overall physical, emotional, and psychological stress. It is affected by the mechanics of your bite and the condition of your jaw muscles. A little extra stress, a little extra fatigue, or a little change in your bite, and you may temporarily knock the whole system out of balance. The resulting TMJ disorder (TMD) can create a variety of mild to severe symptoms, from jaw clicking and minor discomfort to sharp pain in your temple, ear, neck, and shoulders.
This condition is very common in our culture, which is why we evaluate every patient for TMJ dysfunction at their regular dental exam. If we detect a problem, our goals are to treat it, protect teeth from further damage, and correct any underlying bite misalignment. Therapy may involve fitting you with a physiologic bite appliance, suggesting ways to alleviate stress, and recommending symptom relief measures. Typically, TMJ patients need to avoid chewing gum or hard, chewy food, take small bites, and alternate chewing between both sides of the mouth. Good nutrition will help the joint heal more quickly; good posture will also help relieve discomfort. A straight back, relaxed neck, and side-sleeping position are also helpful. To relieve soreness, light temple and jaw massage can stimulate circulation and relax the muscles. If pain is present, placing an ice pack over the joint for a few days followed by moist heat may be helpful. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or analgesics can be very helpful as well.
Some patients react to stress by grinding their teeth unconsciously during the day or, more commonly, while sleeping. This constant pressure and motion can harm teeth, as well as muscles and tissues in and around the jaw. This condition, known as bruxism, can be remedied with a nightguard.