The Woodlands and Houston, TX

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) can explain a lot of conditions that are associated with jaw pain, temporomandibular joints (TMJ), and nerves.  Many of the symptoms can occur on either side of the head, face or jaw and can even develop after an injury.

This includes headaches and migraine headaches, one of the more common symptoms of TMD.  Many people experience pain behind the eyes, around the ears, sinuses, cheeks or side of their head, and others may experience clicking when moving the jaw. One of the most common causes of TMD seen by dentists is the chronic grinding and clenching of teeth while people are asleep.

Many people will occasionally grind and clench their teeth from time to time and typically see no adverse effects from it. This is referring to the “grinding of teeth”, as sliding your teeth back and forth over each other; and “clenching”, as tightly holding your top and bottom teeth together. However, when the grinding together and clenching of teeth, medically referred to as Bruxism, occurs chronically over time, it can progressively lead to tooth damage and lead to long term oral health complications. During both the day and night we almost all clench and grind our teeth to some extent without even being aware of it; but sleep-related bruxism often presents as an oral health problem because it is so difficult to consciously control.

What makes teeth grinding so potentially harmful is that in some cases, chronic bruxism can result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. Sometimes, chronic grinding may even wear teeth down to stumps. When this happens, crowns, bridges, root canals, implants, or even partial or complete dentures may be needed.

What causes Bruxism is not entirely known, but the daily stress that many people go through is thought to be a primary cause for it. As mentioned before, some people can grind and clench their teeth and never have any noticeable symptoms, where as others develop debilitating headaches from it. Whether or not bruxism causes pain and other symptoms seems to be attributed to a complicated mix of factors such as: how much stress you are under, sleeping habits, the duration and frequency of clenching and grinding, an abnormal bite, misaligned teeth, posture, diet, and even the ability to relax.

Clenching your teeth puts tremendous pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around your jaw, which can lead to symptoms that cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems. Over time, grinding can wear down your teeth and even be noisy enough at night to bother sleeping partners. Symptoms that can often develop include: earaches (due in part because the structures of the temporomandibular joint are very close to the ear canal, and because you can feel pain in a different location than its source; this is called referred pain); trouble eating; headaches; hot, cold, or sweet sensitivity in the teeth; insomnia; a sore or painful jaw; and even anxiety, stress, and tension.

Since most people tend to grind their teeth in their sleep, they are often unaware that they are even doing it until they develop a constant dull headache or sore jaw. If you suspect that you may be grinding your teeth, you should talk to your dentist so that they can examine your jaw and mouth for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.

One of the most common ways that your dentist can help you to stop grinding your teeth is by custom fitting for a mouth guard, commonly referred to as a Night Guard, to help protect your teeth from grinding and clenching while you sleep. In the case of more severe grinders, your dentist may suggest stress counseling, starting an exercise program, physical therapy, or the fabrication of a custom orthotic. This is accomplished by using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit.  This unit is used to relax the facial muscles, which places the lower jaw at its most comfortable position.  After relaxing the muscles and removing the built up lactic acid , a bite registration is taken of the new position of the jaw and an appliance similar to a mouth guard is made.  When worn for a period of  several months the patient will begin to see their symptoms subside.

Additionally, more simple tips that can help with bruxism include things such as: avoiding alcohol since it tends to intensify teeth grinding; stopping habits such as chewing on pencils or pens, and even gum since it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.

If you think that you may be grinding or clenching your teeth, or feel that you are showing some of the signs associated with bruxism, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Scott Young at Woodlands Premier Dentistry to answer any questions you may have about how to improve the care of your teeth. Scott Young D.D.S. and his team serve The Woodlands, Houston, Kingwood, Spring, and Conroe areas.