What is it?
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding, gnashing or clenching your teeth which is usually done subconsciously. This can lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged, breaking and sensitive teeth and other problems. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of the habit, so they aren’t diagnosed with the bruxism until complications occur.
Why is it done?
The treatment of bruxism protects the teeth from wearing out and relieves the pain of muscles of the joint. The splint is usually worn at night to prevent teeth clenching when asleep.
“ TMJ” Stressors
TMJ refers to the Temporomandibular joint which is right in front of your ears. One can have problems with the joint itself or with structures around the joint. The National Institutes of Health currently refer to these problems as “Temporomandibular Disorders” (TMD). It is a general term which describes a wide variety of signs and symptoms such as: headaches, jaw pain, jaw fatigue, limitation of movement, clicks and pops, grating, locking open and/or closed, muscle pain, TMJ pain. Before any treatment is rendered, a 21-point examination should be done and a specific diagnosis made for your individual condition(s). Only then can the correct treatment be planned.
The causes of TMDs (and other ailments) can be many. Bruxism is a factor. As a general rule, the causes fall into one or more of these four categories of stress which can exceeds one’s adaptive ability and cause these signs and symptoms:
In other words, LIFE! We are all subjected to a variety of environmental stressors which can take a toll on us. Common examples are job or school difficulties, relationship problems, financial matters, family stresses, etc. These all can lower our resistance to the point that we begin to feel badly. Many people find relaxation, meditation, yoga etc as good ways to help deal with these issues. Become aware of these life situations that seem to take a toll on your general well-being and find ways to address them. Medications are sometimes prescribed for short durations to help.
In particular this refers to general body alignment such as posture etc. People who work in front of the computer, type a lot, keep a phone on their shoulder for extended periods; get tense behind the wheel of their cars can subject their bodies to structural stress. Sleeping on your side with your arm under one side of your jaw can subject your TMJs to structural stress. Many find “body awareness” helpful to improve posture and body positions. Exercise, especially stretching, can reduce structural stress to our body. Often physical therapy and massage can help a lot along with ultrasound, infrared, TENS treatments.
Snoring and other sleep disorders add to structural stress and pain. Medications such as anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants are sometimes prescribed for short durations to help. Other general medical conditions that affect muscles and joints such as arthritis or fibromyalgia should be ruled out.
What we eat plays a big role in overall health and one’s ability to adapt to stress. Smoking, caffeine and high sugar intake all increase muscle hyperactivity and lower adaptive capacity making us more prone to fatigue and pain. In addition to decreasing their intake, supplements with calcium and magnesium can decrease muscle dysfunction. Also, supplements with chondroiton sulfate and glucosamine can improve the health of the TMJs in particular and other joints in general. If you are unaware of your dietary intake, try keeping a diet diary for a week and see what you learn!
Teeth and gum problems can often be a source of TMDs. Getting and keeping these healthy are obviously important. Dental stress also refers to bite (occlusion) problems coupled with clenching and/or grinding ( bruxism). This is where bite splint (night guard) therapy comes into play, that is, to relieve these stressors. Once the bite splint has relieved the signs and symptoms, your bite needs to be re-evaluated and a plan to improve and harmonize it should be developed.More than one category of these stressors can come into play at any one time. Or we can “cycle” through these various categories over a period of time. All factors need to be looked at, evaluated and addressed. By following this approach, your particular condition can be resolved or certainly improved significantly.