TMJ & Bruxism

TMJ & Bruxism

Do you know someone who grinds or clenches her teeth at night? This person may suffer from bruxism, a serious disorder that often results in significant tooth wear over time. Experts cite daytime stress, dietary habits, and sleeping patterns as just a few causes of TMJ problems, and which have serious consequences for oral health and function.

TMJ Disorder

When the jaw joints, clinically known as temporomandibular or TMJ joints, are not properly seated, associated muscles and nerves become stressed and irritated. This condition is known as TMJ disorder. The effects include headaches, migraines, earaches, tooth wear and fractures, limited range of motion in the jaw joints, popping or clicking joints, and habitual clenching or grinding of the teeth.

Teeth Grinding

Bruxism varies by person, but the results are often the same: considerable wear on the teeth, pressure on jaw tissue and musculature, even temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems. Defined as clenching and grinding teeth, bruxism sometimes creates mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, and physical symptoms, including ear disorders, headaches, and insomnia. Anyone may grind teeth—children are as prone to bruxism as are adults. In some cases, the habit is caused by stress and worry, but TMJ disorder may also be the cause.

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Thankfully, treatment options exist for those who suffer from bruxism and/or TMJ disorder. The purpose of a treatment plan is not to eliminate bruxism in itself, but to curtail physical symptoms, including pain and permanent tooth wear.

Dr. Hall may recommend a splint, an oral device molded to fit the patient’s mouth. The splint keeps upper and lower teeth from grinding together. Because most bruxers grind their teeth at night, the splint can be worn while sleeping. Other, self-administered solutions include daytime stress reduction, jaw massages, face relaxation, and stopping habits like gum chewing and fingernail biting. More serious TMJ problems may require physical therapy or surgery. If this is the case for you, Dr. Hall will refer you to a local specialist for consultation.

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