Bruxism: Signs and Symptoms
If you find yourself waking up with sore jaw muscles or a headache, you may be suffering from bruxism — the grinding and clenching of teeth. Bruxism can cause teeth to become painful or loose, and sometimes parts of the teeth are literally ground away. Eventually, bruxism can destroy the surrounding bone and gum tissue. It can also lead to problems involving the jaw joint, such as temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ).
How do I know if I have Bruxism?
For many people, bruxism is an unconscious habit. They may not even realize they're doing it until someone comments that they make a horrible grinding sound while sleeping. For others, a routine dental checkup is when they discover their teeth are worn or their tooth enamel is fractured.
Other potential signs of bruxism include aching in the face, head and neck. Your dentist can make an accurate diagnosis and determine if the source of facial pain is a result from bruxism.
How is Bruxism Treated?
The appropriate treatment for you will depend on what is causing the problem. By asking careful questions and thoroughly examining your teeth, your dentist can help you determine the potential source of your bruxism. Based on the amount of tooth damage and its likely cause, your dentist may suggest:
Wearing an appliance while sleeping — custom-made by your dentist to fit your teeth, the appliance slips over the upper teeth and protects them from grinding against the lower teeth. While an appliance is a good way to manage bruxism, it is not a cure.
Finding ways to relax — Because everyday stress seems to be a major cause of bruxism, anything that reduces stress can help-listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or a bath. It may help to seek counseling to learn effective ways for handling stressful situations. Also, applying a warm, wet washcloth to the side of your face can help relax muscles sore from clenching.
Reducing the "high spots" of one or more teeth to even your bite — An abnormal bite, one in which teeth do not fit well together, may also be corrected with new fillings, crowns or orthodontics.
TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, means that the hinge connecting the upper and lower jaw isn't working properly. This hinge is one of the most complex joints in the body, responsible for moving the lower jaw forward, backward and side-to-side. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working as it should is called TMJ. Often, TMJ feels like your jaw is popping or clicking or even "getting stuck" for a moment. The exact cause of this misalignment is often impossible to determine.
What are the symptoms of TMJ?
TMJ disorders have many signs and symptoms. It's often hard to know for sure if you have TMJ, because one or all of these symptoms can also be present for other problems. Your dentist can help make a proper diagnosis by taking a complete medical and dental history, conducting a clinical examination and taking appropriate X-rays.
Some of the most common TMJ symptoms include:
*Headaches, earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
*A clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth
*Pain brought on by yawning, opening the mouth widely or chewing
*Jaws that "get stuck," lock or go out
*Tenderness of the jaw muscles
*A sudden change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
How is TMJ Treated?
While there is no single cure for TMJ, there are different treatments you can follow that may reduce your symptoms dramatically. Your dentist may recommend one or more of the following:
- Trying to eliminate muscle spasm and pain by applying moist heat or taking medication such as muscle-relaxants, aspirin or other over-the-counter pain-relievers, or anti-inflammatory drugs
- Reducing the harmful effects of clenching and grinding by wearing an appliance, sometimes called a bite plate or splint. Custom-made to fit your mouth, the appliance slips over the upper teeth and keeps them from grinding against the lower teeth
- Learning relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw. Your dentist may suggest you seek training or counseling to help eliminate stress
- When the jaw joints are affected and other treatments have been unsuccessful, jaw joint surgery may be recommended