We have probably all heard the phrase “talking through gritted teeth” and we will all have seen someone rubbing the sides of their head or rubbing the back of their neck and rolling their head from side to side saying how tense they are feeling. These are common presenting signs of the impact of stress-induced clenching or grinding of the teeth that comes under the umbrella name of Tempero – mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) and reflects abnormally high chewing loads put upon the teeth through clenching of the large chewing muscles that are found on the side of jaws and head (master and temporals to give them their fancy names).
The common signs and symptoms of Tempero – mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) are:
- Headaches, neck ache and stiff jaws, especially on waking or at times of heightened stress or concentration during the day.
- Clicking or locking of the jaw joint on opening and closing, especially to a wide “yawning” position.
- Worn, chipped or broken teeth
Whilst no dentist should ever make any bold claims about being able to cure migraines it is still fair to say that many headaches are mistakenly labelled as migraines by the suffer due to the severity and position of the pain but are in fact muscular headaches caused by excessive use and loading of the chewing muscles in TMD.
Most people who clench and grind their teeth are not aware that they do it which is not surprising as many of them will do it in their sleep or will do it when they are very stressed or concentrating hard on some other task. Fortunately, for the vast majority of patients who present with problems relating to TMD the treatment is a simple but well adjusted hard acrylic splint that can be worn at night and during times of peak clenching/grinding activity during the day. It should be noted that a simple soft guard, similar to a whitening tray or a sports gum shield is rarely of any benefit in treating the symptoms of TMD and can actually make them worse.