Bruxism and TMJ

Bruxism and TMJ

bruxismHave you ever noticed that your jaw feels strangely sore in the mornings? This could mean that you are feeling the symptoms of bruxism, or regular teeth grinding. Although teeth grinding in itself may not sound so problematic, repetitive bruxism can be. Here, Dr. Mark Samuels from Lighthouse Dental explains some symptoms of bruxism as well as one of the most common side effects of the habit: temporomandibular joint disorder. To get personalized treatment for this common habit in Stratford, CT, you can contact Dr. Samuels by calling (203) 742-1027 or by submitting a form through our website.

What is bruxism?

As mentioned above, bruxism, or teeth grinding, isn’t a very worrisome practice in and of itself. After all, everyone clenches their teeth from time to time. It’s a natural physical reaction to frustrating or stress-inducing situations. However, for some dental patients, teeth grinding isn’t  reserved for extraordinary circumstances. Repetitive and regular bruxism of this sort can be dangerous because it can cause a number of oral health complications.

So, you might be wondering, why don’t dentists just tell their patients to avoid grinding their teeth? Unfortunately, the situation isn’t that simple: in fact, most patients who experience regular bruxism aren’t even aware of their habit. This is because the most problematic type of bruxism occurs during sleep. Habitual teeth grinding at night is more common than you might imagine, and one of the only ways to tell that it happens is by carefully observing the symptoms experienced the next morning.

In general, the symptoms of regular bruxism include:

  • Pain or soreness in the jaw in the mornings
  • Unusually tired jaw muscles
  • A dull headache experienced when waking up
  • Worn teeth enamel (the protective coating on your teeth)
  • Increased sensitivity of the teeth (for example, pain or discomfort may be experienced when your teeth come into contact with extremely hot or cold substances)
  • Flattened, chipped, or cracked teeth
  • A grinding sound at night (that your sleep partner may notice)

What are some treatments for bruxism?

Because the exact cause of your bruxism may be hard to determine, a number of treatments can be prescribed to alleviate the problem. On a purely physical level, your dentist can reduce the teeth grinding by creating a custom-made mouth guard that can protect your teeth from the worst effects of the grinding. Wearing this mouth guard can reduce the amount of teeth grinding you experience and protect your teeth from damage.

However, bruxism can also be treated by adjusting your habits and practices. Because habitual teeth grinding is often caused by stress and anxiety, finding ways to reduce that stress can solve the problem of bruxism at the same time. For example, seeing a counselor or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are two different ways in which you could simultaneously reduce your stress levels and stop your teeth grinding. Of course, specific treatments will differ from  patient to patient. Don’t be afraid to discuss other options with your dentist.

What are temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD)?

TMJBruxism doesn’t just pose a danger to your teeth. Habitual teeth grinding can lead into other oral health issues like temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) as well. The temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint, is the joint that allows you to move your bottom jaw to chew and speak, and bruxism is a way for problems to develop in this area.

Of course, bruxism isn’t the only thing that causes jaw joint problems. Dentists have discovered TMD caused by a range of factors, including arthritis in the temporomandibular joint and physical injuries in the jaw, jaw joint, and facial muscles. Bruxism is one of the common causes, however, which is why treating bruxism can be so important.

Generally, the presence of a temporomandibular joint disorder is easy to diagnose. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should visit a dentist to get a professional diagnosis. Patients with TMD typically experience:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw and jaw joint area, especially when moving the jaw to chew or speak
  • Clicking, popping, or grating noises when you move your jaw to open your mouth
  • A “locking” feeling when trying to open your mouth (it may feel like you are unable to move your jaw because it has become “stuck”)
  • Difficulty opening the mouth wide
  • Swelling on the side of the face near the jaw joint
  • Tired, sore facial, neck, or jaw muscles
  • A dull, constant headache

Depending on the type and severity of your TMD, different treatments may be prescribed. These will vary from patient to patient, so visiting a qualified dentist is the only way to get an appropriate treatment plan. If you’re ever in Stratford, CT, you can always visit Dr. Mark Samuels at Lighthouse Dental to get a professional diagnosis. You can call (203) 742-1027 or contact us through our website to set up an appointment today!

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Tuesday: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm
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Thursday: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm
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Saturday: 8:00 am - 1:00 pm

Our Location

Lighthouse Dental Care

88 Ryders Lane
Stratford, CT 06614

Phone: (203) 742-1027
Fax: (203) 380-8390