Do you grind your teeth? The medical community calls excessive jaw clenching or teeth grinding “bruxism.” Here we’ll look at the relationship between bruxism and TMJ Disorder (also known as temporomandibular joint disorder). 

Grinding Teeth

Many people grind their teeth when they are frustrated. Unfortunately, if you grind your teeth constantly, it could wear down your tooth enamel or cause jaw problems. Doctors believe that bruxism may afflict anywhere from 8% to 31% of the population. 

Experts have divided bruxism into two categories: 1. Sleeping or 2. Awake. Each instance can be caused by stress, genetics, or Parkinson’s disease. Here are some of the most common symptoms of bruxism: 

  • Headaches
  • Ear Aches
  • Tooth Wear
  • Crenated Tongue
  • Hypersensitive Teeth
  • Aching Jaw Muscles
  • TMJ Disorder

Tooth wear (also known as attrition) can remove the protective enamel on your teeth, revealing the softer dentin layer below. Eventually, the tooth could fracture due to bruxism. 

Sleeping Bruxism

Sleep studies have shown that 86% of sleep bruxism is during sleep arousal, which is a sudden change in the sleep stage depth. Increased heart rates, respiratory rates, and leg spasms might be associated with nocturnal teeth grinding. The central nervous system may be using dreams to deal with stress that took place during the day. 

Awake Bruxism

On the other hand, awake bruxism is associated with other conscious stress relieving habits, such as nail biting. Individuals might feel high levels of anxiety and unconsciously clench their jaws. This is normal at different times; it is only a problem when it becomes commonplace. 

TMJ Disorder

Scientists predict that during a normal day, your teeth are only in contact with one another for about 20 minutes per day, normally while chewing food. Therefore, sleep or awake bruxism could cause heightened pressure, force, and damage to not only your teeth, but the muscles and joints that open and close your jaw. Frequent tooth grinding can damage the temporomandibular joint. 

You have a right and left temporomandibular joint, which operate like sliding hinges to open and close your mouth. Severe bruxism could lead to a misaligned bite due to repositioned temporomandibular joints. This jaw misalignment could cause headaches, jaw tenderness. and difficulties opening or closing your mouth. 

Ways to Treat Teeth Grinding

Fortunately, dentists have developed a number of treatments for those who may suffer from bruxism or the TMJ Disorder. The most common treatment is to use a night guard while you sleep. A dentist will use molds to create a customized mouth guard to fit your exact teeth structure. This guard helps prevent wear and tear to your teeth, muscles, and joints. 

Or, your dentist might provide you with a bite splint. This splint will keep your teeth properly aligned. Also, it can help alleviate pain and damage to your teeth and jaw. 

Irregular teeth clenching might be a temporary nuisance. It often only become serious if it becomes commonplace. Talk with a dental professional if you are worried about teeth grinding, jaw clenching, bruxism, or TMJ Disorder.