Stress, Teeth Clenching, and Ways to help

staffpictureeditThe month of April is jam packed with events.  Family filled holidays, Spring is finally showing its beauty, the Tax Season comes to a close and April is also Stress Awareness Month…Go Figure.  Our bodies take on stress in many ways.  We may begin to feel neck and back tension, headaches, and we often cope with stress by clenching and grinding our teeth.  Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is a very common problem among all of us stressed out humans.  Just like our knees and elbows the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a hinge joint composed of the temporal bone of the skull, the mandible (lower jaw), and a meniscus (disc).  We use our TMJ all day every day, by talking eating and even swallowing.  Clenching and Grinding can be considered as over use or even abuse of the TMJ.  The protective meniscus (disc) allows the temporal and mandibular bones to glide with each other while protecting and cushioning each bone during movement.  Over time in people that clench and grind, the meniscus begins to wear thin, resulting in the temporal bone and the mandible bones to rub against each other.  Also the muscles in the face surrounding the TMJ begin to ache and throb.


Some common symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorder are:


  • Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
  • Problems when you try to open your mouth wide
  • Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open- or closed-mouth position
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth or chew. This may or may not be painful.
  • A tired feeling in your face
  • Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite — as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
  • Swelling on the side of your face
  • You may also have toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).


Should you develop any of these symptoms or have questions regarding TMD, please be sure to consult with your dentist.  Dr. Doug Lewis does a very thorough and extensive TMJ/TMD exam.  Here at Doug Lewis Dentistry we are equipped with a panoramic x-ray machine which will allow Dr. Lewis to evaluate both sides of the TMJ and he will also evaluate your jaw and face for swelling and tenderness as well as listen for clicks, pops or grating of the joint.   We can offer a variety of mouthpieces to aid in the elimination of clenching and grinding.  Dr. Lewis can also advise you in various relaxation techniques and some over the counter treatments that may aid in soothing an achy jaw.  Don’t let stress get the best of you this month and stop in for a visit!!!  Our office takes great pride in having a relaxing environment and being a stress-free zone!