Cavities aren’t the only malady that can cause pain for patients. Just as oral health interlinks with gut and muscular issues, other factors beyond the mouth can greatly affect your dental wellbeing. The presence of stress, narcotics, medicines, and unhealthy diet can ultimately lead to two types of facial pain that affect millions of Americans: bruxism and TMJ.
The behavior of excessively grinding teeth is called bruxism, and the most difficult form of this happens during sleep. Tooth sensitivity, oral pain, jaw pain, headaches, and even sinus inflammation can be caused by the constant biting and grinding that happens at night, and with one in ten Americans suffering from bruxism, many people do not seek treatment. Consequently additional problems like insomnia and neck pain can reduce the quality of your waking state, all without knowing that this nighttime behavior is happening.
Another facial affliction is Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ), and unlike bruxism, this is not a behavior but rather pain located in a specific part of your face. This joint connects the area close to your inner ear to the lower jaw and is mainly responsible for chewing and other jaw-based movements. Bruxism can make TMJ worse, but other problems like arthritis or injury can also be responsible.
If your jaw has a limited range of motion, feels locked or stuck, and causes popping sounds when opening wide and closing, you might be experiencing TMJ. Shoulder, temple, and neck pain can also be prevalent, along with difficulty in chewing or feeling like your teeth are not coming together correctly.
The differences between bruxism and TMJ can be hard to tell, but luckily Smile By Design’s Brooklyn dentists will be able to diagnose and treat either using one or a combination of the methods below. If you’re not sure if you have either, please call or email to make an appointment, as this could save you years of facial and other corporal pain.
It’s not just for Hollywood stars who want to look forever young! Botox is also a pain reliever for patients experiencing facial discomfort, and the results are immediate. The muscle in question that’s causing pain is located, and after Botox is injected, the muscle stops experiencing spasms. However, in three to four months the spasms generally return, so the treatment will have to be repeated in the absence of additional help. Remember: bruxism and TMJ are caused by external factors beyond the muscles that hurt, and Smile By Design will do everything to make sure its patients seek help to treat the underlying cause of their facial pain. Until that time, Botox is an extremely effective pain reliever that will help you and your loved one avoid taking additional medication.
Nightgaurds and splints are two pieces of equipment that can reduce the harmful effects of TMJ and bruxism. A nightguard does not necessarily prevent patients from grinding their teeth during sleep, but it does protect muscles, teeth, and joints from experiencing the brunt of the physical force. Ideally pain coming from these parts of the mouth will be reduced due to the guard pushing the lower jaw slightly forward during sleep and the material made to absorb some of the grinding pressure. Our dentists might also recommend that you wear the nightguard during activities that cause oral clenching during the day, including driving, working out, studying, or even cooking.
Unlike nightguards, splints are used to calm muscles suffering from TMJ or injuries like whiplash by not allowing teeth to touch. Splints give vertical support for muscles in need of healing, and they are used short-term to make way for longer range treatment. Splints made at Smile By Design are custom measured and fit as part of a longer-range plan to treat TMJ and bruxism, and multiple splints with different degrees of support are fabricated during the healing process.
Please stop using your current splint or nightguard to relieve oral pain unless recently instructed by a dentist. Patients at Smile By Design may bring in their old equipment so that our physicians can judge whether it can still be used safely and effectively. If not, we can make splints and guards within 24 hours so you can begin to experience a better quality of life immediately.
One way to avoid potential TMJ and bruxism is through preventing injury. Soccer, football, boxing, and a whole host of other physical activities could not only cause damaged teeth, but can also set in motion long term muscle pain. The store-bought guards are cheap, but they are not designed to fit the uniqueness of your mouth. A hard blow to the mouth could move the guard in a manner that absorbs some of the impact but then redirects the rest to other teeth and gums causing injury that could have been avoided in the first place. Custom-made mouthguards can be measured and fabricated easily at Smile By Design in less than 24 hours, and this could save you or your child long-term damage and pain.