What is a TMJ Disorder?
Dental research has shown a link between nighttime tooth grinding, bruxing and headaches. The muscles that open and close the jaw can become painful from overuse in people that grind or clench. This can cause a range of symptoms from tension to migraine headaches. In addition, people that clench and grind will cause premature tooth wear. These people can develop sensitivity to temperature and certain foods, and their teeth become more prone to fractures. For most people, this wear will not be visually evident until later in life when many will need dental work to restore teeth to their original size and function.
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Bruxing (grinding) or clenching of teeth is defined as abnormal tooth contact. Normally, teeth are in contact while eating and swallowing, only about 10 to 15 minutes on a daily basis. People, who grind or clench their teeth during the day or while sleeping, can have their teeth in heavy contact for as many as six hours a day! Researchers say that one night of grinding is equivalent to 80 days of normal wear on your teeth. It is estimated that 95% of the American population suffers from a grinding or clenching condition at some point in their lives. Some people may damage their front teeth that they appear to have no teeth at all when they smile. When your teeth are severely worn down, the vertical height between the upper and lower jaw is reduced. Wrinkles appear around the lips and cheeks as a result of the jaws coming closer together. Another sign of grinding is an abfraction lesion. These are small V-shaped notches that can be felt or seen across the gum line areas of your teeth. Porcelain restorations can renew a smile that has been damaged by clenching or grinding. However, if the condition is diagnosed early enough, the inevitable destruction of the teeth can be slowed, or prevented completely by the use of a bite splint or night guard.