Stress is an issue everyone deals with to some degree on a daily basis, but with economic down turn the level of stress in our society has risen. Clenching is when a person puts force on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) muscle and bites their teeth together with great force. Grinding or bruxism is when a person puts their teeth together and moves the jaw from side to side or front to back. Clenching and grinding are un-natural positions for the mouth to be in when not chewing. Many of our patients are unaware they have an issue with clenching or grinding their teeth because most people are forming these habits at night when sleeping. Stress can greatly increase these habits not only at night but during the day.
Clenching and grinding the teeth can cause a number of problems in the mouth including; fractures in the teeth, wearing of enamel, breaking of restoration in the mouth, and TMJ pain. To help this problem it is a good idea to get checked by a dental professional to see if you are clenching or grinding your teeth. Some symptoms are; wear or appearance of shorter teeth in some areas, unexplained sensitivity, broken fillings or crowns, soreness in the jaw or frequent headaches. In our office we treat this issue depending on the severity of the problem.
Many of our patients with these issues are wearing an NTI at night or during the day. An NTI is a device that fits over two front teeth. While wearing this device you are unable to put force on the front teeth relieving pressure on the joint and ultimately decreasing the ability to clench or grind your teeth. It is about the size of quarter and is much more comfortable to wear than full mouth guard. Many of our patients wear this device to not only relieve clenching and grinding, but also to relieve frequent headaches and migraines.
Article by Katie Poulsen, RDH, BS. Katie is a dental hygienist at Legacy Dental in Salt Lake City, Utah.