Bruxism, or grinding and clenching of the teeth, is a common condition that often goes undiagnosed.
The condition is characterised by the following signs and symptoms:
- abnormal tooth/enamel wear
- fractured teeth or dental restorations such as fillings and crowns
- joint pain or tenderness
- jaw muscle discomfort, facial pain and/or earache
- headaches or migraines
- gum recession
- tight or stiff shoulders
- poor quality sleep.
To help manage the cause of bruxism, your dentist may prescribe jaw rest; hot compresses (or cold compresses if heat aggravates the problem); attention to habits and an attempt to break them; specific exercises; or correction of compromised head or neck positions (especially when using computers and mobile devices).
Bruxism can be associated with pain and problems with your jaw and the surrounding muscles in your face that control it. These symptoms are grouped together under the label temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) or TMJ disorder.
Depending on your particular case and the suspected cause, your dentist may also refer you to physiotherapy, pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy or even an oral medical specialist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon for TMD.
For chronic bruxism and/or TMD, one or a combination of the following two treatments may be prescribed.
An occlusal splint or night guard, is a removable dental appliance made from acrylic specifically moulded to fit the upper or lower arches of your teeth. In most cases it is worn when you are sleeping.
The main objective of an occlusal splint is to create a barrier between the biting and grinding surfaces of the teeth, protecting against further wear and damage. It will not necessarily reduce or prevent sleep bruxism.
Occlusal splints come in various designs, including soft or hard, full coverage or partial coverage and those for either the lower jaw or the upper jaw. Taking your preferences into account, your treating practitioner will advise which material and design will provide the greatest relief based on your individual case.
Frequently Asked Questions
TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, which is basically a hinge that connects your jaw to your skull bones in front of each ear. It lets you move your jaw up and down and from side to side, so you can talk, chew and yawn. It is one of the most complicated joints in the whole human body.
Pain and problems with your jaw, and the surrounding muscles in your face that control it, are grouped together under the label temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) or TMJ disorder.
The causes of TMD are known as ‘multifactorial’: people often have a number of problems all contributing to their jaw pain and discomfort.
One common causative factor for TMD is a bite problem affecting the joint itself. Interferences and changes in the composition of the bite may force abnormal movement of the jaws, leading the muscles to try to compensate. This may force the joints to reposition out of their sockets in order to try and align the teeth together properly.
Also, wear and tear on the teeth caused by teeth grinding (bruxism), clenching and aging of the teeth themselves may produce uneven surfaces on the teeth, leading to changes in the bite and hence an unusual jaw movement and closure.
Grinding and clenching habits are commonly caused by mental or physical stress, such as the stress and strains of daily life or vigorous exercise.
Some TMJ disorders may be caused by arthritis and direct trauma to the jaw joint itself; and then there are those people who seem genetically predisposed to TMD.
If you are experiencing TMJ pain, arrange to see a dentist who can promptly diagnose and start treating your problem.
Treatments range from very simple therapies to the use of a dental appliance (occlusal splint), smoothing or reshaping of the biting surfaces (occlusal equilibration) or even referral to a specialist orthodontist for bite correction or to either an oral medicine specialist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon for more complex structural joint problems.
Please call the Smile Solutions reception team on 13 13 96 to make a dental appointment.