If you frequently grind or clench your teeth, you likely have a condition known as bruxism. While mild bruxism may not require treatment, severe bruxism can negatively impact the health of your teeth and jaw.
Bruxism is often related to temporomandibular joint disorder (known as TMJ or TMD). Temporomandibular joint disorder is a painful condition that occurs when the jaw joint is misaligned.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition in which you unconsciously clench your jaw or grind your teeth. Some people experience this while awake, and others suffer from the condition during sleep.
The risk factors for bruxism include:
- Stress: If you have awake bruxism, it may be due to anxiety and stress. These emotions, as well as anger, tension, and frustration, can lead to teeth grinding. Some people also clench their jaw when dealing with intense emotions or when concentrating deeply.
- Genetics: Sleep bruxism can be the result of genetics. If members of your family have a history of bruxism, you may have an increased risk of suffering from the condition.
- Other disorders: Some mental health and medical disorders such as dementia, night terrors, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy can be associated with bruxism.
You may not suspect that you suffer from bruxism until you experience symptoms such as damage to your teeth, headaches, and facial or jaw pain. That is why it is important to schedule regular dental visits in order to detect this condition and prevent any additional dental complications.
How Can Bruxism Contribute to TMD?
People who grind their teeth or clench their jaw do not necessarily develop TMD. However, in some cases, bruxism can lead to TMD or aggravate an existing condition.
Over time, severe bruxism can change your bite. Excessive grinding can gradually push your teeth out of their proper position. Bruxism can also cause damage to your teeth and dental restorations, resulting in a misaligned bite. If your upper and lower teeth do not close together properly, your muscles may reposition the temporomandibular joints out of their sockets in order to force your teeth together. Jaw misalignment can lead to TMJ disorder.
The symptoms of bruxism and TMD are very similar. Schedule a comprehensive dental examination with Dr. Michael Chung if you experience any of the following:
- Severe and frequent headaches
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw, neck, or face
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- Pain in and around your ear
Prevent TMD by Managing Bruxism
If you suffer from bruxism, it is important to manage or treat the condition in order to prevent TMD from developing. Dr. Chung will discuss your treatment options during your consultation.
The following methods may help you avoid grinding and clenching your teeth:
- Sleeping with a night guard: If you grind your teeth at night, Dr, Chung may create a custom mouth guard for you to wear while you sleep. This will help protect your teeth and avoid any further damage.
- Wearing a bite splint: Dr. Chung may recommend that you wear a bite splint in order to alleviate the pain and damage that bruxism can cause. The splint will prevent unwanted movement of your teeth and jaw.
- Reducing your stress: If your bruxism is related to anxiety or stress, reducing these emotions will likely improve your condition. Stress management techniques such as deep breathing and meditation may be beneficial.
- Making a conscious effort to relax your jaw: Dr. Chung may discuss the ways that you can learn to consciously relax your jaw throughout the day.
If you have dental damage or a misaligned bite due to bruxism, this should be treated in order to reduce your risk of developing TMD.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
The most important step you can take to manage bruxism and prevent the development of TMJ is to schedule a comprehensive dental examination. Call Softouch Dental Care at 703-319-6990 to make an appointment with Dr. Chung. We welcome patients from Oakton, Vienna, McLean, and nearby areas of Northern Virginia.