People who grind their teeth can sometimes develop a serious problem with their jaw which, when left untreated, can adversely affect the teeth, gums and bone structures of the mouth.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is often viewed as a harmless, though annoying habit. Some people develop bruxism from an inability to deal with stress or anxiety. However, teeth grinding can literally transform your bite relationship and worse, it can severely damage your teeth and jaws over long periods of time.
Teeth grinding causes abrasion to the chewing surfaces of your teeth. This abnormal wear and tear can prematurely age and loosen your teeth, opening them to problems such as hypersensitivity (from the small cracks that form, exposing your dentin). Bruxism can also lead to chronic jaw and facial pain, as well as headaches.
How do you know if you suffer from bruxism? Someone may have told you that you grind your teeth during sleep. You may hear popping sounds when you open and close your mouth. Other symptoms include a sore jaw, teeth that look abnormally short or worn down, and small dents in your tongue.
One of the most common jaw disorders is related to a problem with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, allows your upper and lower jaw to open and close, and facilitates chewing and speaking. Traumatic injuries also can cause jaw dislocation.
People with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) often experience a clicking or popping sound when opening and closing their mouths. Such disorders are often accompanied by frequent headaches, neck aches and, in some cases, tooth sensitivity.
Bruxism is somewhat treatable. A common therapy involves use of a special appliance worn while sleeping. Less intrusive — though just as effective — methods involve biofeedback and behavior modification, such as tongue exercises and learning how to properly align your tongue, teeth and lips.
Minor cases of TMD involve discomfort or pain in the jaw muscles. Some treatments for TMD include Physical therapy, Analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents, Muscle relaxants, biofeedback or wearing a night guard — a small plastic appliance — in the mouth while asleep.
More serious conditions involve improperly aligned joints or dislocated jaws. The most extreme form of TMD involves an arthritic condition of the jaw joint. In these cases, jaw surgery may be required to correct the condition. Some jaw surgery can be performed arthroscopically.