ALSO KNOWN AS 'BRUXISM', TEMPEROMANDIBULAR JOINT DYSFUNCTION (TMJD) OR TOOTH GRINDING
WHAT IS IT AND WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?
Jaw clenching is a very common condition affecting men, women, the old, the young- just about anyone! It often starts in the teenage years and can affect some people on a daily basis and others just occasionally. It is essentially the over use of the muscles responsible for tensing the jaw- the Masseter and Temporalis muscles. These are exceptionally strong muscles and their overuse can result in a number of consequences such as pain in the jaw joint (TMJ), pain in your teeth, shorter worn teeth which may even be cracked or broken, pain down your neck or headaches. Visually you may also notice your face becomes bottom heavy and more square in shape over years of this habit. This results in a bulkier lower face. Many people clench more at night time when they're sleeping. If you imagine you went to the gym for a few hours every day, your muscles would quickly become pretty massive! Well that's what's happening every night when you're clenching and grinding your teeth away! As for why we do it, there is no definite cause but it is believed that stress exacerbates tooth grinding. Often if we are going through a stressful or tough time, we subconsciously build up tension in our muscles and over exert them either when sleeping or when focussing on an activity. This may diminish once the stressful event has passed.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
If dentist prescribed mouthguards or restorative treatments have not been enough to solve your problems, injections can be used to relax the masseter muscles so that they become less active. You can read about how botulinum toxin works here. It is a very quick procedure with minimal discomfort. The effects of the injections last approximately between 3 to 6 months before the normal muscle strength returns. The peak effectiveness kicks in at about 6 weeks after treatment. At this point I will review you to assess if any further treatment might be needed. You will start to see some reduction in size of the muscle at this point and feel your bite strength is not as ferocious. Repeated treatments over time reduce the bulkiness of the muscle considerably as it is effectively being worked out much less., therefore you may find you need the injections less frequently after you have had a few courses. This is a prescription treeatment and only suitable for some people. You will need a medical assessment to ensure you are suitable for this treatment modality.