It is estimated that 20-30% of patients experience problems with their jaw-joints at some stage in life. These joints are called the tempero-mandibular joints (TMJ) and are located just in front of the ears. Common problems include clicking, popping or locking of the joints as they open or close. For the majority of patients, these joint noises do not cause pain and do not indicate any problems with the joints.
Some patients, however, can suffer from pain around the joints and the facial muscles that move the lower jaw. The joints and muscles may become tender and ache. This may be associated with grinding of the teeth either during the day or more commonly at night whilst sleeping. Patients may complain of headaches and sinus problems, sometimes worse in the morning if they grind at night. There may be an association between stress and grinding of the teeth.
Your dentist is trained to look for signs of grinding. In addition to examining your TMJ, they will also check teeth for signs of wear or fracturing which is seen in grinding patients.
Treatment of grinding ranges from altering habits and lifestyle to jaw exercises. We commonly provide patients with a hard splint which is worn over the teeth at night. A hard splint will protect teeth from further wear. It is specifically designed for each patient to provide them with a perfect bite which can help reduce tenderness from joints and muscles.