Occlusal problems – Issues involving the Bite and the Jaw joint

You may well have a problem with your bite and the relationship to the jaw joint (TMJ)

if you have you experienced:

  • headaches or migraines
  • a stiff neck, shoulder or jaw
  • worn or chipped or constantly breaking teeth
  • earache or unexplained aches in the jaw or teeth
  • poor sleep quality
  • tinnitus or even vertigo such as Meniere’s disease

All of these symptoms can be caused by clenching or grinding of your teeth, are collectively known as bruxism.

Bruxism occurs in almost everyone and remains one of the most overlooked and undiagnosed conditions in the UK, meaning that sufferers continue to experience discomfort.

A general lack of awareness of the condition means that it is common for those exhibiting the symptoms to consult their GP for advice, which typically leads to ineffective treatments that do not stop the pain from occurring. Thankfully, once correctly diagnosed, there are various treatment options available.

Treatment can be very simple such as explaining why and when it occurs to wearing a protective device at night.

Another common effect of overloading the teeth is abfraction, shown in the video alongside.

The result is a wear notch at the gum line on the root surface, literally caused by slight flexing of the tooth under load.  Microscopic chipping at the bend point eventually causes a notch, underlying bone loss and gum recession. The video shows a filling being placed.

Here are a few testimonials of bruxism treatment.

“Life changing”                                                 Mrs. K [Houston, Texas]

“I love it”                                                            Mrs. T [Surrey]

“I can eat on both sides again”                        Miss. H [London]

“Thank-you, you saved my bacon”            Ms. G [Surrey]

“My face pain has gone”                                    Dr. C [West Sussex]

The cause of bruxism

Why bruxism occurs is not always clear, though there are a number of contributing factors that could suggest why you may be clenching or grinding your teeth:

  • Stress – it has been found that nearly 70% of bruxism occurs as a result of stress and anxiety. These conditions, whether job or lifestyle related, can often lead to disrupted sleep patterns and restlessness.
  • Lifestyle – substances such as tobacco, caffeine and alcohol have all been linked as co-factors of bruxism. As they are known to affect sleep, bruxism is significantly higher for individuals who use these psychoactive substances.
  • Sleep disorders – snorers, obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), or sleep paralysis sufferers are all more likely to suffer from bruxism. Of these, OSA seems to be the larger cause, as the snorting and gasping result in mouth movements and impact on the teeth.
  • Misalignment of the bite – if the teeth bite slightly off centre to the at rest position of the jaw, the muscles on one side are put into slight tension. Subconsciously, whilst sleeping the jaw moves to try and attain this relaxed position causing grinding, tension pains and degenerative wear leading to what is effectively a repetitive strain injury.

Treatment options

Once identified as a bruxer, your dentist will likely suggest an occlusal splint for treatment. The most common form of treatment for bruxism, an occlusal splint is a device that slots on either your upper or lower teeth which inhibits the ability to clench, preventing grinding from occurring and the symptoms from persisting.

If you have an acute problem or do not want to wear a splint initially, then muscle relaxant injections can be given for several months’ relief. This is very effective later in combination with occlusal splints if required. Suzanne Liano has specific training in relation to this therapy.

There are a number of different occlusal splints available from a basic soft night-guard through to a bespoke custom made splint that is adjusted over time.

There are several different effective appliances,  from simple “sleep clench inhibitors” to complex Michigan splints that protect the teeth from wear when asleep and patients report that other symptoms [as listed above] reduce or disappear. These splints occasionally have to be made on referral outside the practice.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms above and suspect that bruxism may be the cause – book a consultation. Alternatively, if you have acute symptoms or simply want advice about the condition call and we could arrange a telephone call back.