Does Teeth Grinding Lead to TMD?
Submitted by Michael R. Cortese, D.M.D. on Thu 10/20/2016 - 09:00
Bruxism, which is the medical term for chronic teeth grinding/clenching, is often a subconscious problem, meaning people do it without even realizing it. Many people suffer from sleep bruxism, which means they grind or clench the teeth in their sleep. Dr. Michael Cortese can detect signs of bruxism during a routine dental exam; usually the tops of the teeth are worn down from the constant contact and pressure.
As an authority on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), Dr. Cortese is often asked whether teeth grinding can lead to TMJ disorder. Here, he explains more.
Possible Cause of TMJ Problems
Most doctors, including Dr. Cortese, believe that bruxism does indeed lead to TMJ problems. Grinding the teeth puts extreme pressure on the jaw joint. The masseter muscle that controls chewing is extremely strong — experts estimate that it can put up to 600 pounds of force per square inch on the back of the jaw.
However, scientifically speaking, the link between teeth grinding and TMJ problems has not been totally established. Many people that grind their teeth for years do not develop TMJ problems, and many with TMJ problems do not grind their teeth.
The more common causes of TMJ disorder include the following:
- Trauma to the jaw joint from an impact or injury
- Arthritis that damages the joint’s cartilage
- Erosion of the shock-absorbing disk of the joint
That being said, although the risk of developing TMJ from teeth grinding may be low, for people with a pre-disposition for acquiring TMJ, teeth grinding can accelerate the process.
What to Do If You Grind Your Teeth
- Make a point to consciously relax the face and jaw several times throughout the day.
- Manage stress with exercise, more sleep or therapy.
- Avoid alcohol or caffeine, which both increase the propensity to clench or grind. Avoid chewing gum or eating tough foods, which can further irritate the jaw joint.
- Ask your doctor about using a muscle relaxant to relax the jaw.
- Inquire about a night guard to protect teeth from the effects of clenching or grinding.
Please Note: The information in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional medical advice. If you suffer from chronic teeth grinding or clenching, or have symptoms affecting your TMJ, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Cortese to discuss your case in more detail. The doctor can get to the root of the problem and suggest the appropriate means of treatment.
Call (609) 552-0800 or email Princeton Prosthodontics today to make an appointment with Dr. Cortese.