Grinding and clenching your teeth sounds like a painful and tiring pastime: Yet, most of us don't know, that we are guilty of it ourselves. Often a dentist or osteopath will be the first to let you know about it!
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding or clenching your teeth at night. The resulting symptoms are quite a few, some more obvious, like your partner reporting teeth grinding from you during the night, others less so, like back pains.
Signs that you are grinding your teeth at night:
a sore and achey jaw (especially in the morning)
toothache or sensitivity to ice cream/hot drinks
loud grinding noises reported by your partner!
Tight and achey neck muscles
Do you suspect, that you are crushing away at your teeth whilst you are asleep? See your dentist, to check if your teeth are worn and make an appointment with your osteopath to tackle the cause of the bruxism.
If the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) gets ground off, this can result in exposed nerve endings - which means serious tooth ache! Also, it means your teeth are more prone to cavities, because the protective tough layer is damaged. Ouch!
What can help stop grinding your teeth?
You might be given a bite protector to wear at night, so you don’t damage your teeth. Really good personalised bites can also relax the jaw muscles significantly: This also reduces the amount of pain you get on awakening! So, try to avoid over the counter mouth guards: although cheaper and seemingly easier, they rarely help and only create frustration!
Your osteopath can assess, if your bite guard is doing a good job or if it needs tweaking. So, don’t forget to bring your night guard along for your consultation with your osteopath!
We will test the jaw, the muscles and pull on the rest of the fascia in the body when you are wearing it, and without!
Great ones make all the tension in the body virtually disappear, whilst bad ones make muscles tighter and fascia less subtle!
What is the cause for bruxism?
The causes are varied and it is important to find out why you are actually grinding your teeth, so you can tackle it!
A lot of the time the jaw joint and its muscles are slightly out of position, so that the left and right don’t work in unison and actually work against each other.
This is usually termed a TMJ dysfunction (temporomandibular joint, i.e. the jaw joint)
You might also be experiencing symptoms like a locked jaw, painful jaw or clicking jaw (especially whilst you are chewing or opening you mouth wide, like for a big yawn). Commonly punches to the face or falls onto the face can result in a jaw imbalance.
The problem with an imbalance in the jaw is, that it is eventually going to affect your bite… This essentially means that your jaw problem is perpetuated by a dodgy bite! Devil’s cycle
Equally, an incorrect bite can lead to TMJ problems, so look after your teeth and see the dentist regularly, so that it won’t become a problem!
By far the most common culprit of bruxism, is stress. Not only stress, but also anxiety, depression and repressed anger seem to have a link to the nightly grinding. Reducing the physical sides of your stress is something that osteopathy can help with.
When you are under pressure, your posture changes: Muscles get tighter, shoulders rise, you slump and your breathing gets more difficult as a result. This all means your body has to work much harder to keep everything in balance- not something that is needed when life is already stressful enough!
Reducing the muscle tension in your body, makes it easier to deal with everything else in your life. So, find a osteopath that can help you, get some nice exercise in and don’t forget to breathe deeply!
What links the teeth and jaw to the rest of the body?
Oh, there are so many anatomical links!
The jaw bone (mandible) is hinging on the head just in front of your ear on both sides. More specifically into the so-called temporal bones. Hence the jaw is called TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint).
Both, or just one side, can get locked or out of balance and create pain locally over the joints or refer pain into the teeth, head and neck.
Wait, the neck?
Yes, the nerve that is connected to the TMJ, is connected to the top of your neck too. And the brain can find this a little confusing and … thinks the pain is coming from the neck instead.
The same principle applies for headaches caused by the TMJ- again, the same nerve both supplies the front of the head and face, as well as the jaw joint!
There are many muscles that hold the jaw in place. Unfortunately, all of them can create trigger points, when they are tight. This usually happens, when the mandible is not perfectly aligned between left and right. This means one side has to work a lot harder. Trigger points can create referred pains and really, really hurt. Luckily, osteopaths are great at finding those & we know, how to treat these painful spots!
When these muscles are in imbalance, they can create problems locally. However, a lot of the time they create even more havoc by affecting other muscle chains in the body… They run all the way from the jaw down to the toes!
The compensatory muscle imbalances all the way along the whole body, are remarkable. (This is exactly, what I love the most about being an osteopath: Playing detective in order to find the original culprit for all those compensatory tensions! Once you found it, the others:)
So, the jaw really can affect your posture - and even be the cause of your knee pain!
I hope you can see, why I am always so passionate on examining the WHOLE body, and not just focus on accurately assessing your jaw itself. It really is, all connected! :)