Friday, 14 March 2008
What the heck is that? It's when you grind, clench or press your teeth together, usually at night in your sleep, but sometimes during the day as well. It causes wear on the teeth and pain in the jaws, neck and head. Millions of people suffer from bruxism and guess what? I am one of them. The cause of bruxism is a malocclusion, or the upper and lower teeth not fitting together properly. The jaw wants the teeth to line up properly and will grind and clench away trying to fix it. The problem is compounded by emotional stress. The first port of call for treatment of bruxism is exercises to loosen the TMJ (jaw muscle) and a splint, or occlusal guard, to wear at night.
I got an occlusal guard a week ago, but it needed adjustment. I went back to the dentist yesterday and he adjusted it and last night I wore it comfortably all night and this morning I woke up feeling much better. I think I must have slept better. The dentist also told me two exercises to do for five minutes a day each day, and I am supposed to go back in three months' time to see how everything is going. If I feel my guard needs further adjustment between now and then, I am to call him. This was the big ticket item that was causing me so much grief. I was worried about the expense because the thing was so uncomfortable that I thought I'd never get used to it, but now that it's been adjusted, I think I can see that it will have true benefits for me. So that's a relief!
The exercises are:
1. Very slowly open your mouth as wide as it will go, pause, then very slowly close it again. Repeat this exercise at a very slow pace for five minutes.
2. Open your mouth not quite as wide as it will go. Move the lower jaw slowly side to side. Repeat this at a slow pace for five minutes.
In addition to wearing the splint at night, I am meant to pop it into my mouth during the day when at any time I notice myself clenching my jaw. This happens because the jaw muscle is so accustomed to being in a clenched position that it will try to go right back to it. The splint will help it return to a relaxed position, and as soon as it relaxes, I can take the splint back out again. If I do this during the day it will decrease the amount I clench in my sleep, because the jaw is being retrained. And as a result, my splint will not get chewed up as so fast a rate and will last longer. (Which is a good thing as it was bloody expensive!)
Here's a link to a brief article about it.
Teeth Grinding: A Real Headache