Many people suffer from the effects of grinding and clenching their teeth. The noise can disturb spouses and roommates, although the long-term effects are a lot more distressing for the person doing the grinding, or bruxism, as it is also known.
This destructive action can cause major damage to your teeth and can also place extra stress and tension on the joints and muscles of your face and jaw.
Grinding of the teeth (bruxism) at night is an automatic reflex of the neuromuscular system and can place severe pressure on the teeth, jaw joints and muscles. Bruxism can actually cause teeth to crack, chip and may even cause them to move, as the forces generated during this process are many times greater than the usual chewing forces.
Bruxism affects the jaw joints and muscles by causing the muscles, which move the jaw, to become tired and sore. This pain is generally felt in the temple region and can feel like a tension headache. Most headaches are actually caused by muscle spasm from too much clenching and grinding. If you are suffering from an unexplained and vague earache, or your jaw is popping, clicking or locking when you open wide, this could indicate a problem with the jaw joint (the temporomandibular joint or TMJ).
The reasons for grinding and clenching can be many. Usually this is an involuntary action that is done during the night or at times of stress, extreme concentration or even an unconscious attempt to balance an uneven bite.
A custom-made bite splint can protect your teeth against this destruction and may reduce your ability to grind and clench. Sometimes muscle relaxant medication or anti-inflammatories can be used for short-term relief, or special exercises can be used. In many cases, a combination of splints and night-guards can alleviate the associated pain and discomfort that often accompanies this condition.
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