The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. Most people are more familiar with the acronym TMJ. When this joint has problems and has become inflamed or swollen, patients are said to be suffering from temporomandibular disorder or TMD. Those two acronyms are used interchangeably however they do mean two entirely different things.
Patients experiencing problems with their TMJ will have acute pain and discomfort along their jaw and note clicking sounds as they take bites of food. They can also have earaches. Those are all signs of TMD. Patients who have these types of problems should come to see us today at Bonnie & Simone for a full assessment to determine what kind of treatment is warranted.
How Does Bruxism Impact the TMJ?
One of the most commonly occurring causes of TMD is bruxism. This is the medical term for patients grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw. While most people suffer from bruxism during their sleep cycle some do experience it while awake. If this condition is not properly treated, it can create more involved problems including jaw misalignment and improper wear of teeth. Bruxism is something that worsens over time, the first symptoms typically going unnoticed. If patients are grinding their teeth in their sleep and fail to realize it or if their partners fail to notice it, they could continue to do this for years.
Causes of Bruxism
Most people fail to realize that there are two types of bruxism. The first is known as awake bruxism and is typically caused by stress and anxiety. It causes patients to grind their teeth and clench their jaw. Stress can be brought on by various emotional states such as frustration, tension, and anger and contributes to the most severe cases of awake bruxism.
Sleep bruxism is the second kind of bruxism and is not preempted by emotional states. It is caused by genetics. Those patients who have a family history of bruxism are more likely to develop it. Other contributing factors can include Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and dementia, all leading to a higher risk of developing sleep bruxism.
How Do I Prevent Bruxism?
While both types of bruxism can cause serious damage, the good news is they are both very treatable. Stress reduction techniques and anxiety reduction exercises are oftentimes employed to deal with those types of issues.
Another treatment option is a mouthguard. Patients can wear one while they sleep to keep their teeth from touching so they are unable to grind them together. This helps to alleviate pain in both the jaw and the teeth. A split bite appliance can also be employed to hold the jaw in a position, so the patient is unable to clench their jaw.
Patients who have a constant ache or pain in their jaw or specifically have pain in their TMJ, should be concerned. They might have bruxism and not realize it. They should come in to see us for an evaluation. We are located in Norfolk, VA. We can also be reached by calling (757) 540-1028. Give us a call to make an appointment or to get answers to your questions.