A lot of people clench and / or grind their teeth particularly when stressed. Some do one or the other, some do both. The effects often are similar. Clenching and grinding and joint pain often go hand in hand.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is the involuntary grinding and clenching of teeth.
• Most commonly it occurs during sleep although some people can grind when the are concentrating on something awake.
• Stress is probably the biggest cause of grinding in adults, however, sometimes it can be due to irregularities in the bite.
• The fabrication of splints for wear at night can help with prevention of further tooth wear and also with the symptoms.
• These can be either soft (like a gum shield) or hard, more permanent designs.
What are the effects?
Bruxism affects sufferers in many ways. Some problems are relatively short term, however, many patients suffer throughout their life from time to time.
Short-term effects of bruxism
• Headaches particularly on waking
• Facial pain in the muscles
• Ear ache (the joint is by your ear)
• Neck pain
• Difficulty opening your mouth
• Poor sleep, waking up tired
• Sensitive teeth
• Clicking joints
• Tender teeth to bite on or occasionally slightly loose teeth
Long-term effects of bruxism
• Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (sometimes called TMD)
• Tooth wear and fracture of fillings and teeth
• Tooth loss
Approaches are varied, there are some who try and adjust the teeth to resolve any interferences in the bite. Others would advise the use of night time splint wear.
It may also be necessary to replace missing teeth with dentures if you have lost a lot of back teeth to prevent further wear of the front teeth.
The use of splints or night guards adopt the principle of giving the patient the perfect bite on a wafer of plastic. This allows you to continue to grind around in comfort preventing damage to the teeth and joints. Due to the precise way in which they are made, the muscles are kept relaxed.
However, these splints tend to control the symptoms rather than stopping you grinding altogether.