Do you wake up in the morning with a headache or jaw pain? Have you noticed that your teeth feel loose or no longer seem to fit together properly?
You might have a condition called bruxism. This is the medical term for chronic clenching and grinding of the teeth. Bruxism often happens while people sleep, so other than the mysterious aches and pains in the jaw and teeth, many people don’t realize that anything is wrong (unless their partners have complained about the noise!).
But bruxism can cause considerable damage to your teeth over time. It can also lead to increasing pain and even dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint (the joint just below your ear where your lower jaw connects with your upper jaw).
The Problem with Bruxism
It’s common for just about everyone to clench or grind their teeth periodically. This action is often associated with stressful situations, and when it only happens occasionally, it’s not anything to worry about.
For some people, however, clenching and grinding turn into a daily problem.
The human jaw can exert a great deal of force. This is great if you want to crunch into a fresh carrot or work your way through a juicy steak. When this force is applied to your own teeth through constant grinding, however, it's a different story.
The consequences of bruxism include:
- Pain in the head, neck, shoulders, and jaws (including migraine headaches)
- Chipped, cracked, and fractured teeth
- Ear aches or ringing (tinnitus)
- Loose teeth
- Worn teeth
- Changes in occlusion (the way teeth fit together)
- Damaged restorations
- Gum recession and inflammation
- Abfractions, or notches in the teeth near the gumline
- Lost teeth
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD)
What Is TMJ/TMD?
Place your fingers just before your ear and open and close your mouth. The movement you feel is your temporomandibular joint. This joint is one of the most versatile in your body. It allows the jaw to have an incredible range of motion, which gives humans the ability to eat such a wide variety of foods and create well-developed, highly expressive languages.
Disorders and dysfunctions of the temporomandibular joint have many causes and can have a significantly negative effect on your quality of life. Symptoms associated with TMJ/TMD include pain in the jaw and the ears that often radiates down the neck into the shoulders, clicking or popping in the joint, a grating or grinding sensation, and “locking” of the joint in which the jaw becomes stuck in an open or shut position.
Treating Bruxism and TMJ/TMD
At Brigham Dental Care, we can treat many bruxism and TMJ/TMD cases using occlusal guards, which are sometimes referred to as night guards. The guard is custom made for your mouth so that it fits comfortably and doesn’t interfere with your sleep or your breathing. The position of the guard prevents your teeth from coming into contact with each other, stopping the wear and tear on your teeth and preventing the muscle tension that causes pain.
We will check your teeth and gums for signs of bruxism at each preventive check-up, and we will also evaluate the function of your temporomandibular joint. If we identify problems – or you let us know that you are experiencing symptoms – we will discuss treatment options with you, which may include a custom-made occlusal guard.
If you are struggling with jaw pain, please don’t hesitate. Call our Morrisville dental office today to schedule an evaluation with Matt Ebert, DMD.