The joint which connects the lower jaw to the patient’s head is known as the temporomandibular joint which is more frequently called the TMJ. The health of this joint is vital to ensure proper jaw motion while chewing and speaking. When patients suffer from ailments that affect the TMJ, they are said to suffer from TMD or temporomandibular disorder. Those patients who have pain along their jaw or have chronic headaches, earaches, or problems while chewing or swallowing need to be evaluated.
One of the most serious issues with TMD is teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw. The proper medical term for this is bruxism. This can occur while the patient is either awake or asleep and can lead to a whole host of problems including the misalignment of the teeth and jaw which can cause improper damage or wear to the patient’s teeth.
For some patients, bruxism can go undetected for years because the symptoms are not noticeable enough and the patient is unaware that they need treatment. If they are unaware, they are grinding their teeth, or their partner does not hear them grinding their teeth while sleeping then many times it will go unnoticed. Patients suffering from bruxism can wake with clenched jaws, tenderness at the joint site, and even clicking sounds at the TMJ site while chewing.
Causes of Bruxism
For evaluation purposes, there are two different types of bruxism. There is waking bruxism which occurs during the day and is usually brought on by stress and anxiety. When patients suffer from anger, high tension, or frustration, they can all lead to waking bruxism.
The other type of bruxism is rooted in genetics. If a patient’s family has a history of bruxism, they too are likely to suffer from it. If a patient suffers from dementia, epilepsy, or Parkinson’s disease, the patient is more likely to suffer from bruxism too.
The good news is bruxism is treatable. Patients need to be evaluated so a treatment plan is put in place to help them cope with the symptoms. Lowering the stress and anxiety level is a big one to address. There are relaxation techniques we can teach the patient so they can alleviate their stress levels. Also, employing a mouthguard while sleeping at night can reduce the pain of aching jaws, sore teeth and halt the tooth grinding. A splint bite is also used to keep the jaw and teeth apart, so they do not grind together.
Those patients dealing with the pain associated with bruxism should come to our office to be evaluated. We are also available at any time for a phone consultation to address your questions or concerns. We can be reached at 206-791-2020. Why not give us a call today to either get your office visit scheduled or to get more information?