Teeth Grinding and TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)

Bruxism is the act of clenching or grinding your teeth.

It is quite common and usually brought on by stress or anxiety leading to tension that gets stored in the jaw. Often teeth grinding occurs while you’re sleeping. It’s an involuntary, subconscious behavior.

Bruxism can cause temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders commonly called “TMJ” – a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint affecting the nerves, muscles, teeth and bone.

Other conditions such as toothaches, sinus problems, arthritis or gum disease can cause symptoms similar to TMJ so an accurate diagnosis is important to determine the proper treatment.

Signs & Symptoms of TMJ:

  • Clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw joint when  opening or closing the mouth
  • Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open- or closed-mouth position
  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw or face
  • Difficulty in biting, chewing or swallowing
  • Chipped teeth or broken dental fillings
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Headache
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Pain around the ear
  • Ringing in the ear

If you experience any of the above signs or symptoms, it’s time to see your dentist. If the dentist speculates that your bruxism is related to a dental issue, he’ll look at your bite to see how your upper and lower teeth come together and take a series of x-rays of your teeth and jaw.

If it’s determined that you have TMJ, the dentist will recommend a nightguard. This is a clear, thin, custom-made, removable device which is worn over your lower or upper teeth as you sleep. Nightguards are designed to keep your mouth in a more natural alignment and protect any further damage from clenching and grinding.

Studies suggest those who grind and clench their teeth may experience up to 80 times the normal tooth wear per day compared to those who do not.

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