Parafunctional habits are things you do without even realizing it. For example, grinding your teeth at night, biting your nails when you’re nervous, or sucking your thumb as a child. A parafunctional habit is the habitual exercise of a body part in a way that is unnatural to that body part. When these habits become excessive they can have an impact on the development of your teeth, and the structures of the face and jaw.
Bruxism is the medical term for clenching or grinding your teeth. Many people clench their teeth from time to time due to stress and anxiety. Often, however, teeth grinding occurs during sleep when you’re not even aware of it. If you’re grinding your teeth at night it may be due to an abnormal bite, missing or crooked teeth or even sleep apnea.
If you find yourself waking up to a dull headache or a sore jaw, you may have been grinding or clenching your teeth at night. If this occurs on a regular basis it can cause damage to your teeth and trigger other oral health complications. At Lee Dental, we can identify signs of bruxism and come up with a plan to correct your habit. Typically, a fitted night guard can protect your teeth from grinding during sleep.
If your teeth grinding is due to stress it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about different ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Some other simple ways to avoid grinding your teeth at night include eliminating caffeinated beverages after dinner, reducing alcohol consumption, and training your jaw to relax naturally. You can train your jaw to relax by positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth whenever you notice you’re clenching your jaw.
TMJD or TMJ
TMJD or TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. Your temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, right in front of each ear. This joint is responsible for moving your jaw up and down or side to side for chewing, talking and yawning.
TMJD affects more women than men, but the cause of the disorder may vary. Some people suffer from TMJD after an injury to the jaw, head or neck while others begin suffering from TMJD due to years of grinding or clenching teeth which can put a lot of pressure on the joint. Stress can also lead to TMJD, causing you to tighten your facial and jaw muscles or clench your teeth.
The most common symptoms of TMJD include pain or tenderness around the jaw or ear, problems with your jaw getting “stuck” or “locked” in the open or closed position, or clicking and popping sounds around the joint when opening or closing your mouth. Other problems include:
- Pain or discomfort when opening your jaw wide to yawn, yell or speak.
- A constant tired feeling in your face.
- Trouble chewing or suddenly feeling like your teeth don’t line up properly.
- Swelling around the joint on the side of your face.
At Lee Dental, we offer a variety of solutions for TMJD. If your TMJD is brought on by teeth grinding or clenching, we may suggest a splint or night guard. These are fitted mouthpieces that keep your upper and lower teeth from touching so you are unable to clench or grind your teeth. A splint or a night guard can also help correct your bite. We’ll help to determine which is right for your disorder.
Sometimes TMJD can be corrected with simple dental work. If you’re missing teeth we can replace them with crowns, bridges or implants to correct your bite. If stress or anxiety is causing your TMJD, we may recommend you talk to your doctor about an anti-anxiety medication or we may prescribe muscle relaxer to help relax your jaw.
NTI night guards are a type of night guard that only cover the front teeth. The NTI night guard allows only the front teeth to contact the appliance, thus disarticulating the posterior teeth, reducing the intensity of jaw clenching or teeth grinding at night. Originally designed to prevent migraine pain, the NTI night guard is great for relieving pain in the jaw and face caused by bruxism.
Some patients find the NTI night guard more comfortable than a traditional mouth guard because it only covers the front teeth. Because the NTI night guard is smaller it is also easier to mold and fit to your teeth. Whether you prefer a traditional mouth guard or the small size of the NTI, we’ll help to determine which is best to eliminate your pain and protect your teeth.