You’ve probably suffered through a restless night or two where you just didn’t sleep well and woke up groggy with a headache. But for people who suffer from bruxism, this routine happens night after night. Many of these adults and kids wake up tired, but also with an earache, headache, or jaw pain. And that’s where a dentist can help.
It may seem strange to go to a dentist if you have an earache. But we can explain. Shiva Salehi, DDS, and our expert dental team at Madison Family Dental Group want to give you the 411 on what we can do for your earache.
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and clenching, and it may be at the root of your earache. It affects about 30-40 million Americans, both children and adults. Bruxism is characterized by excessive clenching of the jaws and rhythmic teeth grinding. Although it can happen during the day, many sufferers unconsciously do it while they’re sleeping and wake up with a sore jaw or earache.
Although the pain and lack of sleep are definitely negatives, untreated bruxism is also a leading cause of tooth loss and gum recession as well as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and chipped, damaged, or worn-down teeth. And that’s where we come in.
When it comes to the mechanics of the jaw and mouth, dentists are the medical professionals who are particularly suited to diagnose and treat your bruxism symptoms, like ear or jaw pain. As dentists, we went through rigorous education and clinical training that makes us experts in facial muscles and the biomechanics of the jaw.
Armed with this knowledge, we can examine your mouth and determine whether the condition of your teeth and gums is due to bruxism or from other things, like aggressive brushing. Then we develop a treatment plan that works best for your situation.
Here are some ways we can treat your bruxism to save your teeth and give you relief from the discomfort of earaches, jaw pain, and headaches.
To treat bruxism, we want to prevent the teeth from coming into contact, thereby stopping further damage. One effective treatment is a mouthguard, also called a nightguard. We can design a special night guard that’s custom-made for your mouth. You wear it every night, or even when you take a nap, to stabilize the contact between your teeth, preventing both abrasive contact and damage to the temporomandibular joint.
Another oral appliance that can help prevent teeth clenching and grinding is a suppressive device called NTI-tss. An NTI-tss device is custom-fitted to cover just your front teeth. Wearing it allows the jaw muscles to relax and keeps the rear teeth from coming together. This prevents the grinding of the rear molars by limiting or suppressing the movement of one of the chewing muscles called the temporalis.
Another treatment option for bruxism is Botox® injections. You’re probably more familiar with Botox in the context of smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles. For bruxism treatment, Botox is injected into the facial muscles to relax or weaken them a bit to help prevent the grinding action.
After Botox injections, you can still speak and chew properly. The treatment dosage is managed so it relaxes the muscles enough to stop the grinding but doesn’t interfere with everyday functions.
If you’re waking up with an earache or jaw pain and have concerns about bruxism, contact our office in Fair Oaks, California, to schedule an appointment.