The term “bruxism” refers to a repetitive jaw-muscle movement where you habitually and subconsciously grind your teeth together and clench your jaw muscles. It affects the temporomandibular joints located on both sides of your jaws that function by helping you smoothly open and close your jaw.
Why is Excessive Bruxism a Problem?
When problems with your TMJ occur, you will likely feel joint pain and find it difficult to move your jaw. This habit can happen to children as well as adults. But some oral activities happening during sleep bruxism is pretty normal for one’s sleep cycle. It’s when you do it excessively during your sleep (sleep bruxism and are diagnosed with a sleep study) that problems can arise. For those with true sleep bruxism, wearing a plastic nightguard can keep your teeth safe from enamel eroding teeth grinding.
And what about awake bruxism, where you tend towards habitual clenching and biting on random things like pens, pencils, your tongue, or your cheek? In that case, behavioral training is a great solution. It means setting reminders at random times throughout the day for you to stop clenching your teeth. Your goal is to check in with yourself to take a deep breath, notice your jaw position and the contact of your teeth, and then relax your jaw. It is easy to do if you have a smartphone, where you can just set your notifications. Take in a deep breath, release it, drop your shoulders and visualize your jaw tension melting away.
Why Treat Bruxism
If you continually brux, it can wreak havoc on your teeth, including impacting your oral health in the following ways:
- Pain in your jaw: As you clench and grind, your jaw will manifest the effects by causing you to feel sore or in pain.
- Tooth cracks: This constant movement of grinding and clenching can cause cracks or fractures in your teeth.
- Tooth sensitivity: Teeth grinding creates friction by forcing the tooth enamel to rub back and forth, deteriorating the tooth enamel, so your teeth feel more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
- Damaged dental restorations: Repeated jaw clenching can loosen teeth and damage fillings, crowns, and dentures.
- Frequent headaches: Just like a toothache often leads to headaches, continual jaw pain and nerve damage can leave you experiencing painful headaches.
- Hearing loss: Bruxism can cause hearing loss by damaging the ear canal as the grinding noise harms the delicate tissues in your ears. It can also cause hearing loss by damaging the inner ear, where the small sensory cells are needed for hearing, balance and equilibrium.
How Treating Bruxism Helps
The simplest and most common way to treat bruxism is by wearing a custom mouthguard while you sleep. This oral appliance helps your face muscles relax and keeps your teeth from being able to grind together forcibly. This protective guard helps prevent jaw swelling by making it hard to move your jaw so the glands don’t end up swollen.
Without treating your bruxism habit, you can find it harder to chew solid foods or open your mouth all the way. Other issues you’ll be avoiding include locking your jaw, where you can’t open your mouth all the way or it gets stuck. Untreated jaw pain can also create pain in your facial area, neck, and shoulders, and even while speaking or chewing.
If you want to learn more about diagnosing and treating TMJ effectively, our experienced team welcomes you to contact us so you can receive the jaw pain relief you need. Whether your TMJ issues stem from bruxism or other causes, we are here to help!