If you've been suffering from headaches or a sore, stiff jaw, you might be clenching or grinding your teeth.
Hello, my name is Dr. Joe Bulger and I frequently meet people struggling with a sore jaw or tense stiff muscles from clenching and grinding their teeth... In many cases, these people have no idea they're doing this because it occurs while they're sleeping.
This night grinding is called bruxism and it can be quite debilitating. Once the bruxism habit is ingrained, it tends to perpetuate for an extended period of time.
All that muscle activity can lead to:
The first step in handling bruxism is awareness. Understanding the source of this pain can be a huge relief as is often misdiagnosed as neurological pain.
The next step is to relieve symptoms. The muscles can be stretched and relaxed with certain exercises. Pain and stiffness can be relieved with analgesics and muscle-relaxants.
The next step is to address the cause and eliminate it if possible. Reducing or controlling stress can help reduce the triggering of grinding episodes.
Finally, splint therapy (bite guards) can help break the cycle of clenching/grinding.
A bite guard (also called a night guard) helps by propping open your bite and protecting your teeth from direct wear. Any grinding will wear down the appliance instead of your teeth.
There are different styles of bite guards - flat plane, anatomical and NTI guards are among the more popular.
The NTI guard has the ability to greatly reduce clenching and grinding by triggering a protective reflex that stops muscle activity when only the front teeth are touching each other. For many people this can offer immediate and profound relief.
The NTI device doesn't work for everyone. Those who still grind with this appliance can bein exerting pressure to the TMJ area and develop sore joints. They must be switched over to a full guard to distribute the grinding pressure over more teeth.
About the Author: Dr. Joe Bulger is a West Toronto dentist. He's also the owner-founder of Royal York Dental - a respected dental clinic serving Etobicoke since 1950.
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