Teeth Grinding and Clenching

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Are you a teeth grinder or clencher?

Teeth grinding and clenching, chicagoGrinding and clenching of teeth is a disorder that many people do not know they have. It’s an involuntary action that often occurs while you are sleeping, and the clencher is often not aware that it is happening. The condition is normally first noticed by someone else who can observe you while you sleep.

 Grinding your teeth is a warning sign of possible Sleep Apnea or UARS

These sleep disorders contribute to chronic pain and a host of other medical problems.  Evaluation for Sleep Disordered Breathing should always be considered in patients with bruxism.

Nevertheless, this is a sleep disorder that could benefit from medical evaluation for a potential TMJ problem. The clenching episodes are not normal and they could be an indication of an underlying medical problem, which may be more severe than you realize.

Grinding can take a toll on your teeth

Night time teeth grinding is common, and many people grind their teeth while sleeping on a minimal basis. However, people who experience daytime teeth clenching are probably having gripping episodes during sleep also.


What is Bruxism and what is a bruxism appliance.

Bruxism includes the spectrum of clenching, of the teeth, grinding of the teeth, the very destructive form of clench and grind where the heaviest forces are placed on the teeth.  Bruxism can cause severe tooth wear as well as fractured restorations and even breaking of teeth.  Vertical fractures from bruxism can be painful and difficult to diagnose.  Abfractions (often misnamed cervical erosion)are stress fractures along the roots of the teeth at the gum line that can be extremely sensitive, especially to cold.

While this is not exactly a dangerous condition, it can still be problematic. Teeth can get gnashed or damaged in a variety of ways, especially if the condition is chronic. Even momentary clenching can cause tooth wear if it occurs on a regular basis. A bruxism appliance may be recommended to prevent ongoing damage to your teeth.

A bruxism appliance is made to be worn during sleep to prevent damage caused by clenching and grinding.  It is not the same as an orthotic designed to treat TMJ nor is it a treatment for sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnea.  The bruxism appliance is designed to absorb the forces of wear from the teeth. Because the plastic is softer than the teeth the plastic wears down instead of wearing down teeth.

The real trouble is that the clenching and grinding is an indication or possible cause of a TMJ disorder, which can easily lead to other physical problems such as migraines or other types of pain.  Patients who have pain only upon awakening should consider a bruxism appliance.  If the pain comes  and goes through the day or appears later in the day the presence of a TMJ disorder or TMD should be investigated.

What is TMJ?

The TMJ, medically termed as the temporo-mandibular joint, is located just below the ear and is a very complex part of the body. TMJ problems can lead to pain in the jaw, teeth, ears, and eyes. Some severe TMJ disorders even lead to TMJ headaches, often misdiagnosed as migraines.

Just because pain is experienced in a specific region does not mean the causation is local. The muscles and tissue surrounding the TMJ are stronger than most people realize because the mouth is used constantly during the course of a day. People tend to take this body function for granted, but it is clearly one of the most important things we do on an ongoing basis.

TMJ can cause a host of problems

TMJ disorders can also lead to other medical and dental problems.

  • An asymmetrical mouth can result in a bad bite, the inability to chew food properly, and damaged teeth.
  • Pain can develop in a range of places, including headaches and sore muscles down the back or chest.
  • Since the ear is located immediately above the TMJ, painful symptoms can also include the ear.

TMJ problems as well as airway problems can be treated with a DNA

Appliance and Epigenetic Orthodontics.

When there are problems caused by a narrow mouth and /or nose, breathing obstruction or significant crowding  the underlying structural problems can be addressed by orthopedically growing the upper and lower jaw bones and Pneumopedically growing the airway.

Protect your teeth whatever  the underlying cause

If you are experiencing clenching or grinding teeth, seek medical attention from a TMJ dental professional for an assessment in designing a personal TMJ orthotic that can provide some relief from this potential sleeping problem.

TMJ Stress

Dr. Shapira TMJ Causes Stress 0 Comments

Can stress cause TMJ?tmj-stress-chicago

Biochemical stressors

On top of life stress, we also have biochemical stressors such as diet, allergies, hormones, medications, alcohol, and disease or illness

Physical stressors

including posture problems, habits, muscles, bones, joints, trauma, motor vehicle accidents, spines, discs and many more.

Emotional or Life stressors

Everything in life is attached to stress whether its friends, families, jobs, money issues etc.  The problem is how we react to life stresses and how they affect us.  Life stress also includes changes that are positive.  The stress is not the problem but rather how are bodies deal with the stress.

One of the biggest emotional stressors is pain. It is perceived in the Limbic system of our brain where we experience our emotional responses. It is difficult to feel or appreciate any positive emotions when we are stuck in pain (The Pain Emotion).

In the end our brains must deal with all this stress. As we pile one on top of the other, life, biochemical, physical and emotional, stress accumulates. The effects of Emotional,  physical and biochemical stress impact how capable we are of dealing with life stress.

Our life stress coping mechanisms

People deal with life stress in many ways. Some use exercise as an active way to vent while others turn to music or meditation to help them deal with their worries. On the other hand, there are others who have subconsciously turned to less healthy coping mechanisms for stress. In fact, some responses to stress may actually cause other health problems, including TMJ disorders. How?

When you don’t need to fight or flee

deer-fleeWhen our body is under stress there are both physical and emotional responses. The body releases neurochemicals and hormones to create that “nervous energy” that helps us either “fight or flee”. The trouble is, in our modern world, we rarely need to do either. When you’re in this situation, your body now has a pile of energy it needs to release.If left pent up, it can put your sympathetic nervous system is out of sync with your parasympathetic nervous system.

Our autonomic nervous system is a finely tuned machine. It’s divided into parasympathetic and sympathetic. The sympathetic system kicks in when we are in fight or flight mode. The parasympathetic system kicks in while we are at rest. When out stress levels are maxed out, these systems can become out of balance.

Consider how you deal with the excess energy of a stressful situation that doesn’t require a fight or flight response.

  • You may find yourself clenching your jaw while you are busy contemplating a problem
  • You might excessively and vigorously chew gum or bite your fingernails
  • Grinding you teeth is another common form of subconscious stress release

The repetitive nature of these stress-related actions can create unusual fatigue and discomfort to the surrounding areas, especially the jaw, TM joints, cartilage and ligaments.  TMJ is a repetitive strain injury much like tennis elbow or carpal tunnel.

Painful symptoms

Not surprisingly, these habits often go unnoticed until a friend or family member mentions it. Sometimes, however, they may only surface when these symptoms start to appear:

Evaluation, treatment, relief

senior asian coupleTMD is a complex group of disorders, so it is necessary to obtain a detailed medical history, as well as a full clinical evaluation to get a comprehensive understanding of the issues causing your TMJ/TMD. We will conduct examinations, which may include the following:

  • Dental history
  • Medical and Life history as related to current issue
  • Skeletal structure
  • detailed muscle palpation studies
  • Jaw position and movement
  • Neurological examination
  • Other diagnostic tests or x-rays of the ligaments, muscles and airway

Phase 1: Returning physiological health

After assessing the results of your examination, we will discuss the outcomes with you, and outline a plan of treatment to address your specific concerns. Treatment types may include simple solutions such as:

  • Diet modification, specifically avoiding hard foods and chewing gum
  • Behavior modification (quit chewing your fingernails!)
  • Physical therapy which may include jaw, neck or head exercises

A big part of our TMJ treatment regimen is to bring the nervous system back into balance. To do this, we use SPG blocks (Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks) and the NuCalm System. SPG blocks work to eliminate pain and NuCalm helps to relax you naturally. Once free of stress overload, your autonomic nervous system will begin to ease back into balance.

Phase 2: Stabilization

Once your jaw’s physiological health has been restored, the next step is top keep it that way. We start this treatment process off with more diagnostics. This time it’s in the form of a diagnostic orthotic.  The diagnostic orthotic is utilized to let the body healing occur, the best doctors do not heal patients but rather remove the impediments to healing, that is exactly what we want your diagnostic orthotic to do for you.  A diagnostic orthotic helps to determine which of the following long term stabilization treatments will be the most effective:

Resolve your TMJ stress

Find out more about the stress-related causes of TMJ by downloading our free e-book today. Please contact our office if you would like to set up a consultation to discuss stress-related TMJ disorders.