TMD is typically a symptom of something else. In other words, it is not a cause but rather an effect of another underlying problem. Usually the problem manifests in the jaw joints and the surrounding muscles. One of the more common issues that can cause or worsen TMJ pain is bruxism.
Discover what bruxism is, how it affects TMD and how you can get it under control to ease your symptoms.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the technical term for teeth clenching and/or grinding. It can occur any time of day, including when a person is asleep. Sleep bruxism is a particularly problematic sleep disorder because the person is not able to control the movement. When this occurs it is not uncommon for the person to have other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
Doctors rate bruxism by frequency and severity. Frequency ranges from acute (occurring for less than a week) to chronic (occurring for over a month). The severity range of bruxism varies greatly from mild, sporadic occurrences that do little to no damage to extreme bruxism that is so severe it is loud enough to wake the person next to you in bed.
How Does Bruxism Influence TMD?
Moderate to severe bruxism can cause a number of related health problems. It can have a serious effect on TMD because it directly involves the jaw and mandible. Teeth clenching creates pressure in the jaw area that can lead to soreness, headaches, earaches and tightness of the muscles. Grinding can also cause soreness, joint problems and damage to the teeth. However, if you have TMD it is possible that bruxism is a major contributing factor.
Getting Bruxism Under Control
Why one person has bruxism and another does not isn’t fully understood, but doctors agree that the cause is usually related to psychological or emotional aggravators, which most often are associated with sleep. Bruxism can also be caused by misalignment of the top and bottom teeth (malocclusion) as well. Here are some tips to help you minimize or cope with bruxism.
- Reduce stress as much as possible – stress is one of the most common triggers for bruxism.
- Wear a mouth guard at night – this can help people with sleep bruxism.
- Improve the quality of your sleep.
- Take breaks throughout the day to relax.
- Work on improving your posture.
- Jaw aligning exercises can help if malocclusion is the cause.
- Reduce caffeine intake.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.
- Stop chewing gum or chewing on objects like pencils.
- Schedule a visit to the dentist – An experienced dentist can help determine if bruxism and/or TMJ is the problem, what the underlying causes are and how severe the problem is.
Bruxism can cause significant damage to the teeth as well as chronic pain. If you are experiencing TMJ-like symptoms or believe bruxism may be a problem, give MedCenter TMJ a call. Our friendly staff is experienced in diagnosing TMJ causes and in helping patients get their symptoms under control.
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