Do you clench your jaw when you are stressed or upset? Have you been told that you grind your teeth in your sleep? Grinding one’s teeth and clenching the jaw is a habit known as “bruxism”. While this may seem like a harmless way to relieve or cope with stress, bruxism is actually incredibly destructive to one’s oral health. Bruxism, over time, can destroy teeth, irritate gums, and cause TMJ disorder. Severe and long-term bruxism may require jaw surgery to correct damage done to the TMJ or the jaw. When restorative treatment is not enough, a dentist may refer a patient to an oral surgeon for corrective treatment.
How does bruxism affect teeth?
Grinding your teeth against each other will slowly break down and weaken the structure of teeth. Over time, bruxism will create cracks in tooth enamel (the protective outer layer of teeth) and thus leave the soft dentin structure of teeth exposed to cavity-causing bacteria or breakage.
What is the TMJ and what is TMJ disorder?
The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a joint that is responsible for all mouth movement. There are two TMJs and they are located on each side of the face just below the ears. Connecting the lower jawbone to the skull, the TMJ and surrounding soft tissues work as a cohesive unit to open and close the mouth. When you speak or eat, the TMJ is engaged.
TMJ disorder occurs when the joint begins to dysfunction and a patient’s oral function is impaired. Bruxism contributes to TMJ disorder by stressing the joint and surrounding facial muscles and ligaments. Since bruxism also wears down the structure of teeth, this can affect a patient’s bite and also damage the jaw and TMJ. This disorder can be very painful. Common symptoms include facial pain, headaches, and discomfort during oral function.
When is jaw surgery necessary?
Oral surgery on the jaw or TMJ is normally the last line of treatment when orthodontics and restorations do not alleviate symptoms. If a patient is referred to our practice, our oral surgeons will perform a thorough examination to determine the best course of action.