Sad to say, there are many reasons your teeth can be damaged. Most of these are obvious. We all know too much sugar and not flossing leads to problems, right? One often-overlooked problem is bruxism, or unconsciously grinding your teeth. Doing it occasionally is no problem, as the enamel on your teeth is strong stuff. But repeatedly grinding your teeth will eventually grind down the enamel, making your teeth weaker and more susceptible to problems.
And that’s just your teeth. Bruxism can lead to sore jaws, headaches, migraines, and TMD, or temporomandibular disorder. That’s why Dr. Vareldzis and the dental team at our Medford, OR dental office have solutions that will help alleviate the pain and restore your mouth to a healthy state.
TMJ is a catch-all phrase for a lot of people. We all have TMJ. We have a right TMJ and a left TMJ, and basically, it's our jaw joints. What happens a lot of times is that grinding or clenching is a side effect of a mal positioning of our bite, where our bite wants to come together in a certain way but it's pushing the joint out of alignment, because our lower teeth are connected to our lower jaw, which is in turn connected to the jaw joint, so we see a tug of war going on where the teeth want to go one way, the joint wants to go to its normal physiologic happy place, and the muscles get caught in the way.
We can see destruction of teeth from clenching and grinding and we can see destruction of the jaw joint over time where the joint literally starts breaking down because of the stresses on it, or a lot of times we see the muscles that are trying to keep the joint in its normal position go into tension, go into spasms. Patients get a lot of headaches, headaches above and behind the eyes, the side of the temples, the side of the cheeks. Sometimes ringing in the ears. A lot of the patients don't equate all these symptoms with tooth issues, so they'll go to a neurologist, they'll go to a physical therapist, they'll go to a physician. If those people are not in tune with what's happening, the patient ends up going and spending a lot of time, a lot of money on treating something that, really a lot of times its origin is dental.
What we try to do when we have a patient that comes in with an issue like that, we create a split that basically allows the teeth to not grind against each other. We create, basically, it's a barrier so the jaw joint and the muscles start going back into their natural position. What that happens, we start seeing relief of these symptoms.
It's a process. It's not something that we do in one or two days. Basically, it's a process where basically the patient has to commit that yes, they will wear the splint, they will wear it for the time frame that we ask them to, and we follow them. We see them on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, whatever needs to be done to get them to hat position where we get the joint and the muscles at a comfortable level. Then we start looking at the teeth. We can't really look at the tooth position until the joint is in it's happy place. This is what we do as far as looking at joint grinding, clenching.
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint where your jaw meets your skull. When you smile, eat, talk, or do just about anything with your mouth, you are exercising the muscles located there. Grinding your teeth puts so much stress on the joint that you can get a temporomandibular disorder, causing popping and clicking noises as well as jaw pain, neck pain, and even headaches. But even if you don’t have bruxism, you can have TMD when your muscles are inflamed or cause you to chew incorrectly.
If you think you might have TMD, Dr. Vareldzis will first scan your TMJ to see how the muscles are doing. This lets him know the best treatment options for you, but one we usually recommend is the MAGO splint. It’s a thin, clear plastic retainer that fits over your upper teeth. By separating your teeth like this, your jaw muscles can relax and slip back into a healthy position. It also stabilizes the jaw joint and slightly changes how you chew. This can “teach” your jaw muscles to chew and hold your mouth closed differently, which can help solve TMD.
There are many causes of headaches and migraines, but bruxism and similar dental issues can definitely be a cause. Because Dr. Vareldzis is trained in bioesthetic dentistry, he takes a holistic approach to dentistry that includes relief from such pain. Specific treatments depend on your specific details, but many times a MAGO splint and other mouthguards can be used to prevent certain nerves in your jaw from being triggers, which in turn cuts down on migraines.
Whether you have problems with jaw pain, teeth grinding, or headaches, Hillcrest Family Dentistry can help find a solution. Call us today at 541-779-4196 or 541-773-4435 or use our convenient online form to schedule your next appointment or speak with a member of our dental team.
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