#11 TMD and Misinformation: Doing “THIS” will stop your Clenching and Grinding (Bruxism)

This is the third article in a series addressing misinformation regarding TMD/TMJ.

Bruxism is the technical term for clenching and grinding the teeth.  No doubt clenching and grinding the teeth is the most common circumstance related to TMD.  In my experience, 80% of patients who present to our practice with TMD clench and grind their teeth.  Whether the patient clenches (bites down tightly intermittently) or grinds (moving the jaw to and froe with force in a chewing motion), both do the exact same damage to the temporomandibular joint over time.  Bruxism can occur night or day, or night and day.

Roughly half the population bruxes and most are not aware they do it.  Not all people who brux develop TMD. However, people who brux have a much higher probability of developing one or more symptoms of TMD.  Men who brux can wear their teeth down to little nubs without developing painful symptoms. But men who brux are more prone to present with complaints of tinnitus, (ringing in the ears), subjective hearing loss, (feeling like there is water in the ears), and vertigo (dizziness).  Men also most often complain of a feeling of tightness in the jaws rather than pain.  Remember, TMD is primarily a female problem because “Estrogen exacerbates Inflammation”.

Here is the most important point of this article.  We, (doctors and scientists who study bruxism) do not understand the mechanism for bruxism.  The only thing we know for sure about bruxism is that it is related to stress.  And we do not have a good definition for stress.  Don’t confuse knowing what creates stress with knowing the definition of stress. Speaking in public give most people stress.  Driving in heavy traffic in an unfamiliar city gives most peoples stress.  But we do not know what happens to the parts of the central nervous system, the immune system and within certain parts of the brain under stressors.  Just because you can see a Pet Scan of the brain light up with stress does not mean doctors understand stress.

Decreasing stressors including drugs, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine will decrease stress on the body.  There are literally thousands of different kinds of stressors.  You don’t need a psychologist or psychiatrist to decrease stress.

Night guards to not stop patients from clenching and grinding their teeth. The Urbanek Device and Protocol does not keep patients from grinding their teeth.

Actually, nothing know stops people from clenching and grinding if they are geared to do so.  And we cannot say with certainty how those gears are constructed.   Don’t let anyone tell you doing such and such will stop you grinding your teeth.  Bruxing usually starts at a young age and continues throughout life. However, as we age and the stressors become more common, bruxing becomes more of a problem.

Remember, bruxing causes damage to the TMJ, and this damage causes inflammation within the TMJ, and inflammation is directly responsible for all the symptoms of TMD.  When you get rid of (ameliorate) the inflammation within the TMJ, the symptoms go away.

Until next time, do your best to remove stressors from your life and quit worrying about stressors. Worry is a stressor.