Teeth grinding is a common reflex that many people do when placed under stress. The action of tooth grinding is usually done subconsciously, and often while the sufferer is asleep. Considered habitual by many, the truth is, tooth grinding can cause severe dental issues, from broken and worn teeth to TMJ – temporomandibular disorder – a related condition that can cause severe headaches.
The flexible, lower human jawbone – also called the mandible – is attached to the skull by joints which allow the mandible to hinge open and closed, and to slide from side to side. With use, these joints can become worn. Tooth grinding places additional pressure on these joints, which in turn lead to the joints becoming sore, and so cause the sufferer pain.
Tooth grinding also applies pressure onto the surfaces of teeth in opposable contact, leading to the teeth becoming worn, and potentially causing teeth to crack or break. Over time, applied pressure can be a contributory factor towards tooth loss, and also destruction of bone which provides the teeth with support.
There are several symptoms of TMJ, which can include clicking in and around the jawbone when opening or closing the mouth; headache and/or earache, especially in the morning; a dull, ache in and around the face; pain in the neck and shoulder, and difficulty in biting or chewing.
A dentist can treat symptoms of TMJ in several ways. While relaxation techniques and painkillers may help relieve the symptoms, the dentist can help to address the underlying cause and potentially rid the patient of TMJ altogether.
For night-time tooth-grinders, wearing a custom mouth guard or occlusal splint can help to absorb and spread the impact of tooth grinding so that the potential for damage to teeth and pressure to the temporomandibular joints are greatly reduced.
Orthodontic treatments can be used to realign the teeth so that the occlusal surfaces are restored, and working in tandem. Upper and lower teeth work in similar fashion to gears; by removing bite discrepancies, the patient’s bite can work more efficiently while expending less energy.
Depending on the severity of TMJ, the dentist can also utilize other methods, such as TENS or ultrasound; in the most severe cases, where other treatments have been ineffective, surgery may be required.
To learn more about your treatment options, contact the office of Dr. Daniel C. Bush and schedule your informative consultation today.