One out of every 10 Americans suffers from chronic headaches, and spend over half a billion dollars every year for over-the-counter medications to relieve their pain! A bite guard may be the answer for you.
What Is Bruxism, TMJ?
Bruxism is the technical term for teeth grinding and clenching that damages teeth and may cause facial pain. Many people clench and/or grind their teeth. This is very common, and usually occurs with increased frequency and intensity during times of stress, and is a common occurrence among many people at some time or another.
People who grind and clench, often called bruxers, unintentionally bite down too hard at inappropriate times, such as during sleep, which is why many people are unaware that they even have bruxism. If you wake up with dull headaches or vise-like pain, you may be one of many people suffering from bruxism. Grinding can cause teeth to become painful or loose. Patients can literally grind away parts of their teeth, leaving them with worn surfaces or fractured enamel. People who have otherwise healthy teeth and gums can clench so often and so hard that over time their teeth become sensitive and they experience jaw pain and headaches. Forceful biting when not eating may cause the jaw to move out of proper balance.
What are the signs of Bruxism or TMJ?
Bruxers may experience pain in their temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or the jaw, which may manifest itself as popping and clicking. TMJ may cause headaches as a result of a bad bite. A bad bite can put your jaw-to-skull relationship out of alignment. When this happens, TMJ symptoms occur. This cluster of TMJ symptoms can include: headaches, earaches, ear ringing, loud jaw clicking, even stiffness and pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders and back. If you develop facial pain, fatigue or any of the symptoms listed, treatment may be needed.
There are numerous reasons why teeth can fit less than ideally, however if you have symptoms that involve muscles, jaw joints, and face-head-neck pain may have other causes as well, that should be ruled out. When teeth don’t touch evenly, this puts stress on the teeth, supporting bone, jaw joints and muscles.
Bite, Bite Guards, Bite Adjustment
The first step in the process of bite adjustment is to adequately diagnose that a problem exists. Many times an assumption is made that a problem equals pain, when for issues related to the bite, pain is often one of the last symptoms.
Non-surgical therapies for both bruxism and TMJ may include the wearing of an occlusal splint/night guard to prevent wear and tear on both the teeth and the joints. Bite guards (often also called night guards) have long been used to treat clenching and grinding.
In extreme cases of bruxism it is advised to wear the bite guard even during the daytime when possible.
The advantages of a bite guard are that it protects your teeth from the forces of grinding or clenching. Since acrylic is softer, grinding against it does not harm the teeth, and the forces are distributed more evenly on the whole bite rather than on an individual tooth. The new position of the bite changes the muscle signals to the brain and for many patients the grinding/clenching eases or ceases completely.
During regular dental visits your dentist will usually check for physical signs of bruxism. However, talk to your dentist if you suspect that you may be grinding your teeth or have any of the symptoms of TMJ. Relief may be just a bite guard away!