TMJ and Bruxism

Many people grind their teeth without even knowing it. Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is an involuntary clenching, grinding and gnashing of the teeth. People usually find out about it when their dentist notices the tell-tale signs of worn-down teeth or when symptoms such as jaw pain and headache start to develop.

Some people only do it occasionally, such as during times of stress. Others do it chronically—often unconsciously—and it is the latter that can cause a lot of problems. Symptoms are uncomfortable and painful, and you can permanently damage your teeth and jaw joint if the problem is not addressed. 

Diagnosing Bruxism

The dentists at Charlestown Dental Care evaluate patients for signs of teeth grinding as part of their routine check-ups. Some of the signs they are looking for include:

  • Undue wear on teeth and restorations
  • Bite marks inside the cheeks
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Fractured, loose or chipped teeth
  • Gum recession
  • Headaches, jaw or ear pain

If we suspect a bruxism habit, we will talk to you about solutions for resolving the problems to prevent further damage and to relieve any pain you might be feeling from the forces of clenching or grinding.

Diagnosing TMJ

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge that connects our lower jaw to our skull. Sometimes this joint, which is what enables us to open and close our mouth, has inflammation. The result is often chronic pain or difficulty opening and closing the mouth. Called TMD disorders, they are more commonly referred to as TMJ.

TMJ disorder is a broad term for a wide variety of issues characterised by some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Chronic pain in the head, neck and shoulders
  • Clicking or popping when opening the mouth, or being unable to open or close the mouth fully
  • Chewing difficulty
  • Pain or ringing in the ears

Treatment Options

Treatment for bruxism may be as simple as a customised night guard that is worn during sleep. This oral appliance creates a barrier between the teeth to protect, so there is no further damage from clenching or grinding. It also relieves pressure on the TMJ and helps prevent further degeneration of the joint.

Patients who have a bruxism habit might decide to participate in a sleep study to find out whether they also have sleep apnoea as the two often go hand-in-hand. Patients who discover they have sleep apnoea and receive treatment often find that their bruxism habit is alleviated.

We Invite Your Call to Charlestown Dental Care

If you are experiencing unexplained pain in the jaw, neck, head or shoulders, or if you suspect you are grinding your teeth in your sleep, we welcome you to call our Charlestown, NSW dental clinic. Our dentists can conduct an evaluation and help come up with solutions so you can enjoy a comfortable, healthy smile.