Jaw and TMJ Therapy

Bruxism is when a person grinds, gnashes or clench their teeth. It may occur at night or sub-consciously during the day.

Sleep bruxism is seen as a sleep-related movement disorder. People, who clench or grind their teeth during sleep are also likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).

Treatment is not necessary in mild cases of bruxism, but when it becomes frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems you need to see your doctor or dentist.

As most people are unaware of clenching or grinding their teeth it is important to know the signs and symptoms and to see your dentist regularly.

The signs and symptoms include:

  • Grinding or clenching of teeth, it can be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner
  • Loose, flattened, fractured or chipped teeth.
  • Worn tooth enamel that leaves the deeper layers of the tooth exposed.
  • Increased sensitivity.
  • An aching or sore jaw and face.
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles.
  • An earache when there is no problem with the ear.
  • A dull headache that originates in the temples.
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of the cheek.
  • Indentations on the tongue.
  • A locked jaw that does not want to open or close completely

The causes of bruxism are not really understood. Possible physical or psychological causes may include:

  • Emotions, like anxiety, stress and frustration and tension.
  • An aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type
  • Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion).
  • Other sleep problems such as sleep apnea.
  • A response to pain such as an earache or teething (in children).
  • Stomach acid reflux into the esophagus.
  • A side-effect to some psychiatric medications and anti-depressants.
  • A coping strategy or focusing habit.

Factors that increase the risk of bruxism are:

  • Stress. Increased anxiety or stress, as well as anger and frustration, can lead to grinding of teeth.
  • Age. Many young children suffer from it, but it usually goes away in the teen years.
  • Personality type. An aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality.
  • Stimulating substances. Smoking, drinking caffeinated drinks or alcohol, or taking drugs such as methamphetamine or ecstasy.

In severe cases the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), the joint between your lower jaw and skull, may be affected and this may cause a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth.

Bruxism is not easily cured but can be managed with the use of:

  • Splints and mouth guards. This helps in keeping the teeth separated to avoid damage. They are made of hard or soft acrylic materials and fit over the upper and lower teeth.
  • Dental correction. Aligning teeth and reshaping the chewing surfaces of teeth may solve the problem. In severe cases braces or oral surgery may be necessary.
  • Medication. In some cases the use of medication like muscle relaxants becomes necessary.

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