Truth About Grinding Teeth

stop teeth clenching

Millions of people suffer from the simple habit of tooth grinding or bruxism. For some it is a minor annoyance. For many others, it can be causing life altering TMJ pain. So, what is the best way to get rid of this pesky habit? What are the treatments for TMJ pain? First, In this article we are going to discuss what causes grinding, factors that can make your clenching condition worse and finally the treatments to help you stop grinding once and for all.

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Is it Normal for Kids to Grind Teeth at Night?

Absolutely not. Teeth clenching in children is a sign of sleep apnea and upper airway problems. This condition requires treatment. And not just braces. Other symptoms include poor nasal breathing, attention deficit, bed wetting and delayed development, tied tongue. Most kids problems can be corrected with growth stimulating appliances such as a Schwarz appliance or ALF appliance. See our page about holistic orthodontics. The goal is to stimulate the proper growth and development in the mouth, nasal passageways for proper night time breathing and oral function. Failure to treat this condition leads to adult sleep apnea, poor overall development, orthodontic problems and TMJ pain.

Never pull teeth for braces and to get straight teeth.

What is Tooth Grinding and Clenching?

cause tooth clenching grinding

For starters, most people do not grind their teeth, but rather they clench. Clenching vs grinding. There is a difference. When grinding, there is a side to side or back and forth teeth rubbing action. Grinding makes a lot of noise typically and 90% people do not grind. Most people clench their teeth. Clenching is an action where the teeth are placed together and the jaw muscles tighten teeth down on one another top to bottom. Usually tooth clenching happens at night time. In fact 80% of people who clench their teeth, do so at night time and do not even know it.

Symptoms of Jaw Clenching and Tightening:

  1. jaw muscle pain
  2. neck and back pain
  3. popping in the jaw joint
  4. headaches
  5. sinus pressure
  6. ear pressure and the feeling of fluid in the ear
  7. tight shoulder and neck muscles and many others

What Causes Jaw Clenching?

There are two types of clenching: day clenching and night time clenching. Most people do teeth grinding at night and during sleep. Teeth and jaw clenching while awake is usually caused by the bite alignment being off left to right. Or in-other-words, when the jaw hinges closed properly teeth hit on one side of the mouth before the other. People will usually track their jaw joint from one side to the other to steer around the teeth getting in the way. This problem creates quite an uncomfortable condition because the jaw muscles literally have no place in space to be stable and rest. Sometimes people who have recently had a lot of dental work done or who have had a lot of orthodontics done have this problem with the bite. Most day clenchers are also night time clenchers as well. and have very small jaws.

Why Causes Bruxism at night time?

people who clench their teeth at night time have what is called upper airway restriction syndrome or UARS. Let me explain – the upper airway consists of the nose and mouth or basically the space where air enters into your body so it can get down into the lungs. Long story, short, many people have small constricted spaces in their mouths and nasal passageways. When the mouth is small, there often is not enough room for the tongue to physically fit and function properly. When people get into deep sleep all the muscles in the body relax including the tongue (a very large muscle). If the tongue does not fit in the mouth, it gets displaced into the throat where it partially blocks the airway. At this point oxygen levels start going down and they clench reflex usually activated. Teeth clenching wakes people up into a lighter sleep where the tongue comes out of the throat and back into the mouth. This is the body’s defense mechanism to maintain proper breathing during sleep.

Conditions that Increase Bruxism:

Many conditions cause teeth clenching to get worse but they are not the underlying cause:

  1. Stress
  2. Change in schedule
  3. Irregular schedule
  4. Bad weather and changes in pressure outside
  5. Poor work conditions such as sitting at a desk all day, or working bent over

What are the Treatments for Bruxism or Tooth Clenching?

There are basically three kinds of treatment:

  1. protective – a teeth grinding guards, protects teeth against getting worn down and lots of dental work
  2. management  – an appliance that manages and reduces clenching
  3. corrective – an appliance that creates more space, balances the bite and corrects the underlying cause of clenching

Protective Appliance Treatment

is a night guard or occlusal guard. People will still clench, but they will just clench the plastic. Most people will not tolerate this treatment because the clenching usually gets worse because there is more clenching on the plastic guard. It really is not comfortable as there is more muscle tension. The appliance also takes up space in the mouth and further crowds the airway.

Management Clenching Appliances

is a bite splint or splint therapy. Splint therapy is the use of a plastic appliance to put the patient into a more open and forward bite. A splint puts the jaws into a more restful position and is a great way to relax the jaw when sleeping. The appliance if made by a TMJ specialist will typically reduce clenching by 30-70%. Bite splints do not correct the problem, but they can relieve a lot of symptoms if it is worn at night. Splint therapy used to be the only treatment for TMJ till corrective appliances became available a few years ago. Splints must be worn during sleep forever. Splints will also need to be adjusted from time to time. Splints will also need to be replaced every 3-5 years as they wear out and begin to discolor and smell badly.

Corrective TMJ or Clenching appliances

work by causing the mouth and nasal passage ways to grow larger. The treatment even works for adults which is novel. The treatment uses a growth stimulating appliance. One such appliance is the DNA Vivos Appliance. The appliance therapy when complete results in correcting the upper airway restriction and allowing enough room for the tongue to fit and function in the mouth. Corrective treatment will stop teeth grinding during sleep permanently by getting rid of the reason why people clench their teeth. Corrective treatment is the best permanent jaw clenching remedy. Other adult growth appliances exist for TMJ pain including the AGGA and the ALF.

Is Clenching Jaws and Teeth a sign of Sleep Apnea?

Yes. 77% of people who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea report tooth clenching in sleep and temporomandibular joint dysfuntion symptoms. Many TMJ specialists believe that teeth clenching is just a symptom of UARS and sleep apnea. Dentists who specialize in teeth clenching and use corrective treatment are in a position to help with not only symptoms from clenching but also solving UARS and sleep apnea.

How to prevent  Bruxism and Clenching?

Why do people end up with small jaws and a tight upper airway? It is a combination of improper tongue function due to tongue tie, genetics and a soft diet. The biggest cause of the problem is a limitation of tongue range of motion caused by the tongue tie restriction how far the tongue can move. The tie also can deform the tongue causing it to taper or curl downward on extension. In these cases, the tongue may not be able to reach the palate. The key to prevention in growing kids is diagnosing and treating tongue tie, introducing tongue exercises and dental arch expanders.

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