Grinding Away to TMJ? Dental Compression Syndrome and Your Jaw

If you have been recently diagnosed with a temporomandibular disorder, you have probably already started exploring potential causes of the condition on your own. Only your health care professional can properly diagnose and treat TMD, but maybe in the course of your research you came across a puzzling phrase: Dental Compression Syndrome, or DSC. DCS is the medical phrase often used by professionals to describe the condition of grinding or clenching of the teeth.


I don’t grind my teeth!

Wait a second!  You’re probably thinking, “My jaw hurts occasionally and I know something’s wrong, but I do not grind my teeth. And even if I did what’s that got to do with TMD?”

Is there, in fact, a connection between teeth grinding and the diagnosis of TMD?


Where the confusion comes in

The answer is yes, but for patients it is often an easy connection to miss.  That’s because we’re usually not aware that we have a problem grinding our teeth. After all, grinding usually happens at night while we’re sleeping. We only realize it’s an issue after someone else points it out.

The diagnosis may seem even more credulous if you live alone. Without a partner to point out the nightly grinding regimen, patients may be skeptical that such a diagnosis has been aptly applied.

We also tend to grind our teeth or clench our jaw when we’re experiencing stress, tension, anger or depression. In the heat of the moment, we hardly notice how our jaw is responding.

Another complicating factor: Patients often believe teeth grinding is strictly a dental issue. They often fail to see the bigger picture, that is to say, the connection between the jaw, neck and oral cavity.

We all understand that TMD can be caused by any number of issues, physical, psychological or otherwise.  However, since as far back as 1990, most dentists and professionals in the field have identified a strong connection between teeth grinding and TMD. In fact, it’s believed that teeth grinding may be the single largest factor contributing to a TMD diagnosis.

Awareness is step one

Management of DCS and TMD first begins with awareness. An understanding that one has a teeth grinding problem is the first step to treatment. Your health care provider can then devise a treatment plan that takes all aspects of your medical history into consideration.

Monitor your jaw activity. Observe when you have the onset of headaches. Pay attention to stressful moments and how your body is responding.

Ask your partner. At night, ask your sleeping partner to listen for the sound of gnashing teeth. If you live alone, examine your teeth in the mirror. Is there evidence the molars are worn down? Visit your dentist. He can perform a thorough exam and identify DCS as well.

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