Bruxism, TMJ disorder, clenching, teeth grinding, and holiday stress

by | November 18, 2022 | TMJ4 Morning Blend

Although the holiday season can be an exciting time, it can also bring added stress. Increased levels of stress impact your smile and can cause significant discomfort from bruxism. Draver Dental will help ease your sensitivity so you can enjoy your holidays as stress-free as possible.

What is bruxism?

With increased stress, you may notice increased sensitivity and clenching of your teeth. Bruxism is a condition in which you clench and grind your teeth, either during the day or at night. This can occur while sleeping, while working at a computer, while driving, or at other times throughout the night or day. If you are a clencher, you may notice broken teeth or fillings, worn down teeth, chipping, and cracking. These can all be indications of bruxism. You may also experience widespread temperature sensitivity, jaw muscle soreness, tooth soreness, or headaches.

Though there are many contributing factors to bruxism, the main cause is stress. Some medications or sleep disorders can also increase bruxism. For some, bruxism occurs only around exam time, the holiday season, or at other times of heightened stress. For other people, it’s a chronic condition. Though it can be very difficult to completely remove stress from our life, Draver Dental can help manage bruxism in other ways.

Night guard for teeth

Once evaluated for bruxism, an occlusal guard or night guard can be fabricated. A custom night guard is made to fit your upper teeth and help protect your teeth from wear. Night guards should be rigid, to prevent an increase in grinding or damage to your teeth or jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ).

Night guards are different from other dental appliances and designed specifically to protect your teeth from grinding. Sports guards are much bulkier but semi-flexible to minimize injuries during serious impacts. Retainers and whitening trays are very thin compared to night guards and will not improve bruxism symptoms. Store-bought and online night guards, whether soft or hard, can cause serious damage to teeth including worsened bruxism, changes in your bite, or broken teeth. Soft night guards act like chewing gum or a “chew toy” and cause increasing grinding. Though dentist-fabricated guards are more expensive, more insurances recently cover night guards.

What is TMJ disorder?

Many signs and symptoms overlap between bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorder, or “TMJ.” Bruxism is clenching and grinding, whereas temporomandibular disorder is dysfunction of the joint, which can be more severe.

Just like bruxism, the first treatment for temporomandibular joint disorder is a night guard. The Draver Dental team can also help recommend medications, physical therapy, or other lifestyle changes to alleviate temporomandibular pain. We also work closely with orofacial pain specialists, if needed, to manage your care.

Our Draver Dental team understands the sensitivity and discomfort that can come with bruxism and TMJ disorder. We want to help you protect your teeth and alleviate dental discomfort so that you can enjoy your holiday season as stress-free as possible.

Andrea Boehlke and Milwaukee dentist Dr. Hannah Draver discuss bruxism and night guards

The video segment above featuring Dr. Hannah Draver and Andrea Boehlke originally aired on November 18, 2022 during The Morning Blend on Milwaukee’s TMJ4.