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Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) and TMD
What is Bruxism
Bruxism is the medical term used to describe heavy clenching and/or grinding of the teeth. The facial and jaw muscles are overactive, producing strong forces to close the teeth together. Bruxism includes both conscious and subconscious (while you sleep) clenching or grinding.
There is a wide range of causes of bruxism. For some people, they clench or grind their teeth when suffering anxiety or stress. Others have problems with the way the teeth bite together, which leads to bruxism. There are also some prescription medications that make you more likely to clench or grind your teeth.
What is TMD?
TMD stands for TemporoMandibular Dysfunction, and it describes problems within the temporomandibular (TMJ) or jaw joints. The TMJ is a ball-in-socket joint, and it is unusual in that, during normal function, the ball comes out of the socket. This requires a complex arrangement of muscles, ligaments, cartilage disks, and bone. Because these delicate and complicated joints undergo so much use in speaking and chewing, they have a relatively high risk for dysfunction.
The condition of TMD includes arthritis within the joint, dislocated disks (or “slipped disks”), growth defects, and limitations in movement. Because of the variety of problems that can occur within these complex joints, obtaining an accurate diagnosis and treatment is also complex. Our doctors have made extensive efforts to further their education and experience in the area of TMD.
How are Bruxism and TMD Related?
These two conditions are interrelated because heavy forces on the teeth produce heavy forces within the joint itself. Those who suffer from bruxism have a much higher risk for TMD. The reverse is also true; those who have problems within the joint may subconsciously clench and/or grind their teeth in order to attempt to reposition the jaw joints or align the teeth.
Because they are closely related and often inter-related, you may hear your doctors using both terms when discussing your condition with you. By treating bruxism, you may also alleviate your symptoms of TMD, and TMD treatment can reduce the forces your jaws produce with bruxism.
What Symptoms might Bruxism and/or TMD Cause?
It is important to think of the jaws as a whole system containing the jaw joints, the muscles and ligaments in the joints and face, and the teeth with their supporting structures. Any one of these components may be affected by bruxism and TMD. The following is a list of the most common symptoms noted by patients who suffer from one or both conditions:
- Facial muscle pain and/or headaches
- Pain within the jaw joints, just in front of the ears
- Clicking or popping sounds in one or both jaws
- Limited movement of the jaw joints
- Locking of the jaw, either open or closed
- Enlarged cheek muscles
- Ringing in the ears
- Shortening of teeth from grinding forces wearing them down
- Gum recession
- Generalized teeth sensitivity
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure you mention them to your doctor at your next visit. If any of them are severe, please call to schedule an appointment for a TMJ evaluation as soon as possible.
What Type of Treatment is Available for Bruxism and/or TMD?
Because of the relationship of the way the teeth bite together with both bruxism and TMD, many treatment options involve changes to the way the teeth come together. These changes may be nighttime only, through wearing a protective mouthpiece that guides the way the teeth bite while you sleep. They could also include orthodontic treatment to permanently move the teeth into a better configuration. Some patients with severe disorders may require surgery in the jaw joint or repositioning of the jaws themselves. After a comprehensive evaluation of your teeth and jaws, your doctor will discuss with you which options will meet your needs and alleviate your symptoms.