While you may not be familiar with the word "bruxism", if you have ever woken up with chronic neck or shoulder pain, a migraine headache or an aching jaw, you’re no stranger to some of its more painful and far-reaching symptoms.
Bruxism is defined as the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth with excessive force usually during sleep. While it’s a common condition, it often goes undetected so you may never make the connection between your head ache, jaw, neck or shoulder pain with your teeth grinding.
How is my teeth grinding causing this pain?
Because the jaw is capable of exerting more than 250 pounds of pressure when clenching, this extra force can irritate the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) which connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. If you feel the back of your jaw, where it connects to your neck, and clench your teeth you'll feel your jaw muscle tighten. The masseter muscle sits alongside and works with other muscles along the face and neck. The major one - called the temporalis muscle - connects to your temple. This is the "soft spot" in the adult skull, the spot where the brain is most exposed.
When the temporalis muscle is clenched, it presses against your brain. This causes migraines, but unfortunately, the pain doesn't stop there. As the jaw tightens, the body reflexively tightens several other muscles around the neck. This is in an attempt to ensure proper support of the head and spine resulting in neck and shoulder tension and pain. In addition, some facial muscles that control chewing are also attached to the lower jaw which can cause persistent and nagging tension headaches.
What is causing me to grind my teeth?
Even though the exact cause of bruxism is still not fully understood, most experts agree that stress is a trigger and teeth grinding is a subconscious attempt by the human body to decrease stress levels. In addition, genetics and other factors such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and certain medications can also play a role.
When left untreated, bruxism can result in not only nagging headaches and jaw, shoulder and neck pain but serious dental issues. The habitual rubbing of tooth surfaces over time can lead to extreme tooth sensitivity, making it painful to eat, drink or even brush, also teeth will lose their natural contours so they become flat and even in length, and micro-cracks, loose teeth, and even tooth loss can occur. Depending on the severity of the damage, it may require tooth restoration, or even, tooth removal. In any case, dental work is rarely fun or cheap. Once you have determined you are a teeth grinder, it important to seek treatment immediately in order to reduce your pain and prevent further damage.
What can be done to prevent my teeth grinding?
While there is no medication currently available to treat bruxism, wearing a dental grind guard is recommended by dental experts to protect your teeth and provide noticeable relief from the frequency and severity of your headache pain and other consequences of bruxism.
Wearing a dental guard helps prevent the upper and lower teeth from coming into contact with each other, thus protecting the tooth enamel from rubbing together, preventing the negative consequences created by bruxism. These devices are removable and generally worn only when needed (i.e., at night or while sleeping).
There are many dental grind guards on the market, however custom-fit products by dentists are expensive may require multiple visits. Many off-the-shelf grind guards may not fit properly, can be easily chewed through, or their material composition may be simply uncomfortable to wear.
Ora-GUARD®, changing the face of dental grind guards.
Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard has quickly established itself as different from the rest with a revolutionary design that combines a soft, medical grade fit material to cushion the jaws during clenching, coupled with a patented bite plate wedge design specially constructed to slide the lower jaw down and forward, releasing tension on the TMJ muscle, while preventing tooth damage.
FDA cleared, Ora-GUARD® fits securely in the mouth and is comfortable to wear, allowing for natural breathing while sleeping. An easy, individualized custom-like fit is achieved at home with a simple 60 second microwave or a boil and bite fitting process. Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard provides an immediate, over-the-counter solution that protects the teeth and minimize the painful effects of teeth grinding.