TMJ Therapy An Overview
Since virtually all people clench and grind their teeth to some degree, the widespread application of bite appliances is needed to minimize the long-term effects on the teeth and supporting tissues. This damaging habit is called bruxism. Research shows that people clench and grind approximately 50/50 night and day, but the nighttime frequency is greater since our proprioception system (sensory receptors that detect the motion or position of your body) is reduced while we are asleep.
Clenching/grinding and periodontal (gum) disease are our two greatest obstacles to keeping our teeth for a lifetime. The result is the shortening and flattening of our front teeth, making us look older as they wear down, as well as the splitting and breaking of back molars as we sleep during stressful times and when we get older and have airway problems associated with snoring and sleep apnea.
At Sowell Sensational Smiles, located in Plano, TX, we make our patients comfortable thermoplastic appliances that form-fit their teeth. When worn at night, these appliances are designed in such a way that the muscle activity from clenching and grinding is reduced by 40% according to current research. This protects the teeth and reduces stress on the jaw muscles and joint.
Causes & Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
The tendency to constantly clench or grind the teeth can be related to poor stress management. In fact, bruxers (grinders) are often those people who react to stress with anger, pain, frustration, aggression or competition. Since it’s a harmful habit that wears down biting surfaces, misaligns the bite and can lead to serious dental problems, we screen each patient for warning signs:
- Unexplained sensitivity in teeth and gums
- Jaw pain
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
- Popping of the jaw
- Clicking of the jaw
- Tense muscles
- Excessive wear or flatness on teeth
- Worn enamel, partially exposed and sensitive tooth interior (dentin)
- Tongue indentations
There is no specific cause for teeth grinding, but stress is one of the most common. Also, sleep arousals associated with sleep apnea as well as GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease) cause clenching and grinding.