Teeth Grinding, Clenching, and TMJ: What You Need To Know

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the condition in which you grind, grit, or clench your teeth.  Most often this is done while you sleep, but some patients even find themselves doing it throughout the day because of stress.

Grinding and teeth clenching cause inflammation and discomfort in the temporomandibular joint, also known as the jaw joint. The condition in which you have jaw pain is commonly referred to as TMJ or TMD.

Sings, Symptoms, and Effects of Teeth Grinding

Some people don’t even realize that they grind their teeth.  It’s their sleeping partner that lets them know they’ve been doing it in their sleep. Waking up with a headache or sore jaw is an indication that you may be grinding your teeth at night. 

Constantly grinding, or even just doing it in your sleep can have a significant impact on the condition of your teeth, causing them to be worn down. The wear can be so bad that your teeth become short, almost like stubs.  At a certain point, the pulp (cluster of nerve tissue) inside a tooth becomes exposed, resulting in sensitivity or even pain.

If you can’t eat certain foods without feeling soreness in your jaw this could be a sign of TMJ disorder. It can be hard to open your mouth wide or eat hard and chewy foods.

teeth-grinding-newport-beachTreatment Options

Determining the best option to treat your condition will be based on what’s causing the problem

  • Medication

Since teeth grinding can be a temporary condition that is brought on by stress, our Newport Beach dentist may choose to treat you with the occasional round of medication whenever you have a flare-up.

An NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), along with a muscle relaxer are commonly used together.  Usually, within a matter of days of taking these medications, the condition will improve.

In the meantime, a warm towel or a heating pad on the jaw bone can be used to relieve pain in the joint.

  • Getting Braces

Grinding and clenching that’s caused by your bite can be fixed by undergoing orthodontic treatment to correct the way your teeth come together. However, this will have to be caught and handled before the condition of your teeth becomes altered.

  • Dental Work

In those cases where the teeth have become to wear a lot, our Newport Beach dentist can do a procedure in which we crown all of your teeth.

A crown is a natural looking cap that permanently covers your tooth and protects it from being damaged. Doing an entire mouth makeover will allow our dentist to reposition your bite in the proper way.

For those teeth that have been ground down into the pulp, a root canal will have to be performed first.  This treatment will remove the nerve tissue and any discomfort that you may be having.

Doing crowns and root canals is a very expensive procedure and sometimes the outcome of some teeth are unpredictable.  This is another reason why it’s so important to get this issue handled when the signs first appear.

  • Undergoing Surgery

If your grinding and teeth clenching are due to the fact that your jaw is positioned incorrectly then you may have to undergo surgery to correct this problem.  Usually, this is done as a last resort because this treatment requires a lengthy recovery time.

Prevention Methods

Since grinding and teeth clenching is done subconsciously, you’ll have to make an effort to prevent yourself from doing this detrimental action. Throughout the day try to become more aware of your mouth movements.  There may be certain activities like driving or reading that can cause you to clench your teeth.  When you notice that you’re doing it, make a conscious effort to stop.

If certain foods trigger jaw pain then watch what you eat. Stay away from hard, sticky, and chewy foods. Chewing gum is not recommended.

Nightguards and bite splints are a great tool to prevent you from wearing your teeth down or fully engaging your TMJ. This acrylic mouthpiece puts a small amount of space between your upper and lower jaws, naturally relaxing your muscles while you sleep or drive home from work.

nightguard-teeth-grindingBite splints are available over the counter, but the best kind will be one that is custom made for you by our Newport Beach dentist.

During your routine dental check-up, we look for many oral related conditions, including signs of teeth grinding. You should be getting a cleaning and exam every six months.

Getting Help With Grinding and Clenching

If you have this condition, seeking help right away will ensure that you avoid damage to your teeth. For help with grinding, clenching, and TMJ problems you should call Dr. Yazdan, our Newport Beach dentist.  New patients are always welcome!

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