By Last Updated: September 11, 2023

TMJ Disorder and Bruxism in Calgary

If you experience discomfort or strain on your jaw when you wake up or when the biting surfaces or edges of your teeth are flat, then you may be experiencing bruxism.

Bruxism is a condition wherein you unconsciously grind, clench, or gnash your teeth. It may happen when you are awake, usually triggered by stress, or when you are sleeping. This is also called night grinding or clenching. Usually, night grinders also experience snoring or sleep apnea.

Mild bruxism usually does not require treatment. However, those with severe bruxism may develop serious complications such as severe headaches, jaw disorders, and damaged teeth. Proper habit treatment and management should be done to avoid further problems.

Keep reading to learn more about bruxism, its usual signs and symptoms, how it can affect your everyday life, and when you should seek dental advice.

Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism

Because most patients suffer from unconscious bruxism, they usually do not know they are bruxers or night grinders until the signs and symptoms are already fairly evident.

Some of these include:

  • Flattened, fractured, chipped tooth
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Broken or loose fillings
  • Jaw, neck, or face soreness/pain
  • Tired, tight, or tender jaw muscles
  • Clicking or popping of the jaw joints
  • Locked jaw
  • Headaches
  • Earaches, ringing of the ear
  • Sore spots on the inner cheek
  • Frequent sleep disruption

The signs and symptoms of bruxism range from mild pain to severe discomfort that often radiates around the temple, ear, face, and neck area. The large extent is due to the involvement of the TMJ.

The TMJ, or the temporomandibular joint, allows the jaw to open and shut. And because bruxism causes soreness and strain on this joint, the pain extends to cause headaches and earaches. Because of this, patients who suffer from bruxism are treated for TMD or temporomandibular disorder.

What causes Bruxism?

The cause of bruxism can be dental-related, stress-triggered, or sometimes due to medications.

Some known factors for bruxism include:

  • Stress, anxiety, anger – Stress is the number one cause of bruxism and may trigger sleep or awake bruxism in adults. 
  • Misaligned bite – Unhealthy and improper bite causes strain on the TMJ and may contribute to teeth grinding or clenching. This is often why some patients would be recommended to have braces. This helps align the bite and eliminate the bruxism habit.
  • Smoking, alcohol, caffeine – Heavy consumption of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine is a significant factor for bruxism. This is likely related to the increase in dopamine levels that trigger the activity of the jaw muscles, therefore causing teeth clenching or grinding.
  • Mental health conditions – Anxiety and depression related to mental health conditions are known to cause bruxism.
  • Neurological conditions – Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease cause involuntary muscle movement and may trigger the jaw muscles during sleep. This may result in grinding or clenching of the teeth.
  • Medications – Some medications with bruxism as a known side effect include some antidepressants, antipsychotics, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Sleep apnea – This is a condition in which breathing temporarily ceases during sleep. Poor sleep quality may also trigger teeth grinding or clenching.

Treatment Options for Bruxism

The main treatment for bruxism is to identify the cause. Once the cause is identified, it can be controlled or eliminated to ultimately prevent the habit. This may be considered for bruxism triggered by smoking or caffeine.

However, if eliminating the cause is not possible, there are other treatment alternatives that your dentist may recommend. Some of these are targeted to provide relief from the pain or discomfort around the TMJ area.

  • Dental Braces – This is mostly advised for patients suffering from bruxism due to a misaligned bite. Once the bite is corrected and properly aligned, the jaw muscles may be relieved of clenching.
  • Mouthguard and Splints – These dental appliances are designed to cover and protect the teeth from damage caused by grinding or clenching. These are constructed using hard acrylic and are customized to fit over the biting edges of the teeth.
  • Medications – In some cases, medications such as botox injections or muscle relaxants can help relieve the tightness of the jaw and eliminate pain from bruxism.

For bruxism triggered by anxiety, it may help to consider:

  • Stress or anxiety management – If stress is the main cause of bruxism, you may be able to prevent the problem by learning relaxation and meditation strategies. A therapist or counsellor may help with such.
  • Behavioural management and change – Habit changes, such as learning how to properly open and close the mouth and to bite, may also greatly help in eliminating bruxism.
  • Biofeedback – But if behavioral changes are difficult, biofeedback can be another option. This utilizes monitoring procedures and equipment to teach you the proper movement of the jaws for a healthier TMJ and bite.

Why treat bruxism?

While some cases of bruxism can be left untreated, there are other patients who develop severe signs and symptoms. If left to progress, significant pain may be felt and this can affect daily living.

Patients may encounter complications such as:

  • Irreversible damage to the teeth that may lead to tooth extraction
  • Severe facial and TMJ pain
  • Loud clicking of the jaws upon mouth opening and closing
  • Tension-type headaches
  • Frequent lockjaws

To prevent the problem from getting worse and unmanageable, early diagnosis and treatment is important.

TMJ and Bruxism Management at Sierra Dental

Sierra Dental is a patient-centred dental practice that offers general, cosmetic, and emergency dental care. We also provide supportive treatment and management to patients with bruxism and TMJ problems.

If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms listed above, book a visit with our team today for a comprehensive check-up. While you may think that it is not a serious concern, our expert dentists might say otherwise.

Schedule an appointment today and let us help you keep your smile healthy and happy!