Teeth grinding or clenching can have a serious impact on oral health if left untreated. Also known as bruxism, it can lead to a wearing down of teeth, broken fillings and increased tooth sensitivity.
Although people can experience teeth grinding during the day, many will find their teeth grinding occurs overnight while they sleep. This can result in awaking with jaw pain, headaches or earaches. The longer teeth grinding remains unaddressed the more severe the potential impact on the jaw and teeth.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the jaw to the skull, acting as hinges which allow the movement in the jaw so you can talk, chew and yawn. A TMJ disorder is one of the main causes of teeth grinding and results from problems with the muscles around the jaw or from the jaw itself. A dentist can recognise the symptoms of teeth grinding and if they suspect a TMJ disorder could be a cause they can refer you to a specialist TMJ dentist.
TMJ dentistry can help to reduce any pain and discomfort from a TMJ disorder while also recommending treatment options to prevent future teeth grinding. By tackling bruxism, TMJ dentistry helps to also prevent future oral health problems associated with teeth grinding and clenching. One of the more common ways to address teeth grinding is with a custom-made mouthguard, which reduces bruxism by preventing the top and bottom rows of teeth coming together.
A TMJ dentist will evaluate the symptoms of each individual to advise on the most suitable treatment for teeth grinding or clenching. Using a splint is an alternative to a mouthguard and depending on the individual case the splint could be fitted to either the top or bottom row of teeth. The splint is designed to gently ease the jaw in to a more relaxed position and most users will find this helps to alleviate any pain while also reducing their bruxism.
As well as pain and trouble chewing, symptoms of a TMJ disorder can also include swelling and a popping sound in the jaw when opening the mouth.
Teeth grinding can also be due to stress and anxiety, so lifestyle changes or modifications to limit stress may be recommended alongside a mouthguard or splint to reduce bruxism.
Teeth grinding can also have an adverse effect on sleep, so by addressing bruxism and TMJ disorders you can look forward to better nights of important restorative sleep.