Do you grind your teeth? Do you have Jaw pain? Dental Treatment for TMJ

Janice G. Scott DDS

     Sometimes the first time we realize that we grind our teeth is when a family member comments on how LOUD we grind.  You may have noticed that your child or sibling grinds a lot. Your dentist might comment that you are showing some wear on your teeth.  Sometimes it can be seen in the back molars and sometimes on the front teeth, especially the cuspids (some people call these teeth the “eye teeth”).
     Children often grind their teeth and can wear them down a lot.  Some kids will wear their teeth close to the gum-line.  The good news is that your child’s grinding is not an indication that it will be a problem in his or her adult teeth.
     Many people find that they first start grinding when they are under a lot of stress!  It could be a new job, a death in the family, a college student going through final exams or just the everyday things that keep our lives so busy each day. Sometimes stress can change the jaw relationship (how your teeth touch each other in your mouth as you open, close, chew, swallow and grind)  from a tolerable one to one your body cannot handle.
     So how do we make things better? First, try engaging in more exercise, meditation, and other stress-relieving activities!  It is good to avoid sugar and caffeine, drink lots of water, make sure that you get enough sleep and exercise, and try to de-stress your life! (This is not always easy!)
     If that doesn’t work, sometimes an appliance, called a “bite guard,” can help.  There are many types of bite guards. Some bite guards are soft, like a sports mouth guard.  This can be helpful on some patients by just changing how your teeth touch each other.  In more severe joint disorders, this simple solution may not be good long-term. A hard or soft bite guard can also help prevent wearing away the enamel or causing sensitivity and fractures in your teeth.  It can be a lot less expensive to replace a plastic bite guard that you might wear out than to replace a tooth that is damaged from grinding.  You must also be careful as some types of bite guards, which do not touch all the teeth, can allow the teeth to drift and then your bite can change dramatically making chewing more difficult.
     Other patients with more severe wear or joint disorders and pain may need a more complex appliance.  A bite guard in this case is more like an orthopaedic appliance that will help to center the jaw joint in the socket so that is is more comfortable at night.  We call this an SRA or Superior Repositioning Appliance. It attempts to create a more ideal bite by aligning your teeth around the hard acrylic and guiding the jaw joint closer to the center of the socket. Not only can these appliances protect your teeth and joint but they can also help to relieve pain in your jaw joint by relieving pressure and swelling in the tissues around the joint.
So…. diet, nutrition, exercise and a positive atmosphere can help.
If still not better, see your dentist to see if a bite guard can help you.

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