Teeth grinding, temporomandibular joint syndrome, tension in the jaw and neck muscles

The masticatory system – the jaws and jaw muscles, teeth, temporomandibular joints, tongue, lips, cheeks and mucous membranes – is a complex structure with finely coordinated systems. The main function of the teeth is biting and chewing food. Teeth grinding and/or clenching that is not for the intake of food can lead to various ailments.

Teeth grinding – Symptoms – What to do?

During teeth grinding/clenching (the technical term is “bruxism”) the upper and lower jaw push upon one another unconsciously. Although bruxism usually happens at night during sleep, it can also take place during the day and is often a habit acquired over years. These, sometimes, tremendous forces exerted upon the teeth will not only cause natural teeth and tooth enamel to suffer, but also affect jaw joints and chewing muscles. It may be the cause of muscle tension, headaches, migraines and even tinnitus.

Causes:

The cause of teeth grinding often has a psychological background. Mostly stress or dealing with a strenuous situation causes the nightly crunching. Other causes might be diseases of the gums, functional disorders of the temporomandibular joint and neurological diseases. Another cause may just be wrong contacts between the teeth. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages favour nocturnal teeth grinding as well.

How do I know if I suffer from teeth grinding?

The chewing muscles may ache, especially in the morning after waking up. Sometimes the jaw cracks, when you open or close your mouth. You can test yourself by checking how the muscles of the cheek towards the jaw joint and the temporal ones feel, preferably in the morning time. Do the muscles feel distorted or hard? Sometimes you may even feel slight hard bumps. Your jaw may be sore. You can ask your partner too. He/she will probably know from hearing you during your sleep (only grinding, clenching is soundless).

In our office we can spot teeth grinding when we see flattened tooth cusps or eroded tooth enamel. Also there may be fine cracks in the enamel because of teeth clenching, open tooth necks and/or chipping of the enamel. Finally, the ailment can be detected by scanning the masticatory muscles and the jaw for hardness or enlargement.

FOS-Deprogrammer – gentle and easy to wear

Treatment of teeth grinding – the road to recovery

This is a so-called front teeth JIG, a plastic splint which is worn only on the anterior teeth (upper or lower). We use a rail from FOS (flexi orthotic system ©), a new development in types of deprogrammers. We opted for this system, because the splints are made from an innovative material, which offers many advantages for the patient and dentist alike.

The system is simple: In order to prevent unwanted teeth grinding during sleep, such bite splints make use of the functional properties of the anterior teeth. Each tooth is connected to the chewing muscles by nerve fibres. When excessive pressure is exerted on the front teeth, receptors prompt the jaw muscles to relax. This is a protective reflex for the smaller and finer front teeth. The splint uses precisely this reflex to reduce nocturnal teeth grinding up to 70%. The fact that the occlusion in the front is blocked by the splint means you cannot subconsciously bite or press down on teeth at night. In this way, non-physiological bite patterns can be “deprogrammed”, hence the name.

The treatment has the added benefit of durably alleviating or eliminating muscle tension, headaches, migraines and neck problems. Incidentally, this system can also be used as a way to detect subconscious grinding during the day at the beginning of treatment. Dentists have used this system against bruxism with success for some time now to the joy of jaw joints, dentures and teeth.

Unlike the common (bulky) full jaw splints, the small FOS splint is easy to carry, with no tensions and foreign body feeling in the oral cavity.

Material properties

Newly developed materials

  • Splints are made of a special polyester copolymer
  • This plastic combines very well with underlying materials and other methacrylates

Benefits of the combination:

  • Hardly any discoloration, even  after longer periods of time
  • Doesn’t compromise hygiene (the splint doesn’t smell badly because there is no cleft between main material und the underlying one)
  • Durable and strong, decreasing the risk of breakage
  • Repairs or modifications are quick and easy, even at recalls (bring it with you for the dental hygiene appointment!)

Price: around 500 francs, manufacturing on site in one session.

To put an end to the teeth grinding during sleep and to protect them, visiting your dentist is the first choice. Your dentist will provide you with a bite splint to wear at night which will help prevent the effects of clenching and grinding. In addition to a visit to the dentist a deliberate reduction of stress levels is an important step to prevent bruxism. Find out in which environment you experience stress and tackle the problem directly.