Bruxism, Teeth Grinding and TMJ Pain
Teeth Grinding, medically referred to as Bruxism is the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth. Even though approximately half of the population experiences teeth grinding at one time or another in their lives, about “five per cent of the population are regular, forceful tooth grinders.” Teeth clenching can lead to a variety of dental problems, which is why it’s important to see your dentist, as soon as you are made aware of the problem.
The Troublesome Effects of Teeth Grinding
- Grinding sounds while sleeping
- Jaw pain and/or ear pain
- Aching teeth, especially upon waking
- Stiffness of the face and temples upon waking
- Pain and or stiffness in the jaw when chewing
- Clenching the jaw when experiencing feelings of anxiety, anger, stress or concentration
- Teeth feeling sensitive, especially when experiences changes in temperature
- Tooth enamel that is chipped or broken
- Tooth indentations on the tongue
- Biting on the inside of the cheek
- Teeth that are loose
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is commonly known as the ‘jaw joint’. It’s where the lower jaw connects to the base of the skull. The position of this joint is located in front of the ears. It can be felt by opening and closing the jaw, while gently pressing this position.
Symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Sore jaw
- Toothaches/broken and cracked teeth
- Sinus problems
- Neck and back pain
- Ear ache/ringing ears
- Teeth feeling like they are not biting together properly
- Pain when chewing or yawning
- Pain on opening or closing the jaw
- Limited opening of the jaw
- Facial tension, clicking jaw (disc rubbing on the bone)
- Locked jaw
Are you experiencing clenched teeth or grinding teeth? Would you like to address your jaw pain? Make an appointment with one of our professional dentists now.
Are teeth grinding and TMJ disorders common?
The number of patients arriving at their dentist with TMD has grown significantly in the past two decades. Approximately 7 out of 10 people are affected by TMJ disorders at some point in their lives. Statistics in the US reveal that “more than 10 million people have the problem in varying degrees.” When the TMJ and associated structures begin to malfunction, it’s referred to as temporomandibular disorder (TMD). The primary presentation of TMD is bruxism, which is the grinding or clenching of teeth while sleeping. However and while less common, teeth clenching and grinding can affect people during the day too.
The causes of TMD are numerous. There are many issues that patients present to our dentists at My Dental Health.
The following ailments are some of the problems responsible:
- Stress, both emotional and physical
- Obstructive sleep apnoea
- Ear infections
- Injuries to the jaw joint such as fractures or dislocations of the TMJ
- Autoimmune disorders such as osteo or rheumatoid arthritis
- Wrongly shaped/adjusted dental fillings, crowns or bridges
- Grinding and or clenching of the teeth
- Bad occlusion
- Anatomical deformities
Diagnosis of TMJ Disorders
An accurate diagnosis is important to ensure that the right treatment is undertaken. Before starting treatment, your dentist will make a diagnosis based on a clinical examination together with an assessment of both your medical and dental history. Our dentists may examine your bite, tooth wear and movement of teeth.
To assist with diagnosis, your dentist may recommend:
- Plaster moulds of your teeth to see if your occlusion (bite) is balanced correctly
- X-ray films to see if the joints are the correct shape
Treatment Methods for TMJ Disorders
TMJ Disorders are best treated “conservatively”. This means that they’re cautiously approached, using treatment methods that do not have any permanent effect on the teeth and jaw joint.
Effective treatment should:
- Lessen or alleviate your pain
- Restore jaw function
- Minimise the creaking sounds from the jaw joint
- Enable you to maintain regular daily activities
How to stop grinding teeth at night
Occlusal Splint Therapy
Occlusal splints are one of the most widely accepted treatments used to treat bruxism (teeth grinding). You’re probably more familiar with the commonly known name of mouthguard. They’re used to relieve pressure from the jaw joints and teeth and are mainly worn at night. The purpose of the splint is to keep your teeth apart, resulting in the muscles relaxing and less tension being generated. They also protect your teeth from damage caused by grinding, as they protect the teeth surface.
Would you like to learn more about occlusal splint therapy?
Eat Soft Foods
When you’re experiencing jaw pain, a common side effect of prolonged teeth grinding, it’s important to minimise chewing and allow the jaw to rest. During such times, our dentists recommend that you choose only soft foods to eat.
Bananas provide a valuable source of potassium and when you can’t chew, offer a great snack idea. For breakfast, instead of trying to chew muesli, a terrific meal replacement is a protein shake. This allows you to maintain your nutritional needs without compromising on the needs of your jaw. Who could forget the miracle broth - chicken soup! This is a wonderful way to enjoy dinner during these periods of time, while ensuring you’re receiving adequate levels of protein.
If you’re chewing, don’t merely favour one side. Despite pain sometimes presenting more noticeably on one side than the other, remember to try to chew on both sides of the mouth.
Heat packs applied to the area can sometimes provide temporary relief of symptoms. The most useful heat pack for jaw discomfort and pain is a moist heating pad. This heat therapy treatment will help relax the jaw muscles, as it’s the muscle contraction that causes jaw pain. Visit your local pharmacy for moist heating pad options.
Exercises, massage, gentle movement and muscle stretching can be effective in reducing pain and stiffness, as well as increasing strength and mobility. A qualified physiotherapist will provide you with exercises that can greatly assist the symptoms associated with teeth grinding.
Relaxation exercises and the removal of stress factors can be effective in certain cases. Stress reduction can minimise tension in the jaw muscles. Our dentists may recommend a carefully created schedule, in order to best cater to your needs.
Cosmetic injections administered directly into the masseter muscles can relax the muscles. The treatment generally needs to be repeated every 3-4 months, in order to gain optimum results and best manage ongoing bruxism. Muscle relaxation treatments can be a highly effective alternative to occlusal splint therapy in patients that have difficulty sleeping wearing a mouth guard. To learn more, please contact us via phone, email or chat function.
Medical practitioners maintain that surgery is always a last resort. This is only recommended when all other possibilities have been exhausted. Your dentist will refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon if surgery is required.