The term bruxism is one that dental professionals use to describe the clenching or grinding of teeth. It is very normal for teeth to contact and move against one another during normal habits like chewing. However, bruxism is considered a parafunctional habit-clenching and grinding is outside of normal tooth movement-and generally happens subconsciously. Bruxism can develop at any point in life and as it progresses, can cause pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and cause progressive destruction of the dentition, gum and bone. Often patients experience early symptoms long before physical problems manifest, so recognizing and monitoring these symptoms often leads to treatment in order to prevent significant long term distress and destruction of the teeth, bone and TMJ.
5 Indications That You May Be Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth
1. Jaw tightness with or without limited opening.
Many patients that clench and grind their teeth will notice tightnesss in one of the main muscles of chewing, known as the masseter. This muscle can be found on the angle of the mandible, just below the ear. When clenching and grinding becomes a chronic habit, this specific muscle can become enlarged and many patients will report that they feel muscle tightness that often feels relieved by opening the mouth and relaxing the jaw. The tightness is often noticed upon waking in the morning, but can be felt throughout the day as well. Chronic jaw tightness can also limit how far a patient can open their mouth. When the masseter becomes enlarged, it can physically manifest as causing a very angular jawline when looking in the mirror.
2. Teeth that appear shorter or smaller over time, with or without jagged edges.
When clenching and grinding goes untreated, many patients will begin to notice their teeth changing shape over time. Often times, patients will begin to notice that the edges of their front teeth becoming jagged or rough. Other patients may notice that teeth that once had sharp points may appear blunted or squared off.
3. Clicking or popping of the Jaw Joint.
The temporomandibular joints are similar to many joints in the body. Clicking and popping can arise from many different causes, from arthritis, to trauma, to chronic distress of the TMJ
4. Regular tension headaches.
Many patients with chronic TMJ dysfunction experience headaches when they wake, or headaches that develop throughout the day. Other patients may notice ear aching or pain generalized tension throughout the face and neck.
5. Your Dentist has mentioned it to you before.
Most patients, when asked if they notice that they clench or grind their teeth, report that they haven’t ever noticed-- despite of clear clinical signs to the contrary. Bruxism in general is challenging because it often happens as a habit that we have no control over and no recollection of participating in.
Bruxism is a condition that affects many and often goes untreated, despite the many simple treatment options that are available to patients. If the above symptoms sound familiar to you, contact our office today to discuss treatment options that will help to protect your smile for a lifetime!