Teeth Grinding & TMJ Temporomandibular Joint

Scott Sulak
Change For Good,® Inc.


If you live in America and you grind your teeth, you are not alone. Statistics show that somewhere between 12% to as much as 20% of the population grind their teeth or clench their jaw. Women are twice as likely to grind their teeth than men. The term for this syndrome is “TMJ Disorder”, which stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, and it can be quite a difficult habit to break.

The difficulty lies in the fact that it happens when the subject is in deep sleep. An underlying thought process, which lies deep in the subconscious mind, begins the nightly routine, and before they know it, enamel on the tooth surface begins to wear away. By morning, the jaw is aching, many get headaches, and sometimes hearing can be affected.

People who suffer from TMJ may suffer from the following symptoms:
1. Unable to open the mouth wide.
2. Occasional locking of the jaw.
3. A clicking, popping or grating sound in the jaw.
4. Face pain.
5. Neck, shoulder or upper back pain.
6. Headaches.
7. Loss of energy or daily fatigue.
8. Pain in ears or hearing loss.
9. Tooth or gum pain and numbness.

The real question is: Why does it happen? Why would someone do something that creates so much pain? To answer this, one must first understand that there are a great many things that happen subconsciously that seemingly are out of our control. The fact is that we all have a tendency to hold stress somewhere in our body. Sometimes it is the lower or upper back, the stomach, the chest, the legs – somewhere!

The TMJ sufferer has learned over time that the safest and easiest way to deal with stress and tension is during the sleep cycle. Sometime after a deep sleep has begun, the jaw tightens and the grinding begins. This can persist for minutes, sometimes hours, each and every night. The greatest risk is to the tooth enamel and nerves. Over time, the teeth can become loose and the gums can recede. Most of the time the patient is unaware of the grinding until brought to their attention by a sleeping partner or dentist.

Stored stress and tension can be toxic. The concept of TMJ is similar in nature to the same experience as a backache, also called Tension Myositis Syndrome. Myo means muscle and is defined as a change of state in the muscle that is painful. Put simply, tension – in this case the jaw – causes the muscle to spasm. This leads to a loss of blood to the jaw area, sometimes causing numbness, and toxins normally carried by the blood are then dumped into the tissue, causing pain. The entire area is made up of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The TMJ is a very complex and important joint.

Temporomandibular Joint

TMJ, as it is commonly called, is one of the body’s most important and most complex joints. If you place your fingers just in front of the middle of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the temporomandibular joints in action as your jaw moves.

The jaw muscles, as indicated in the drawing above, are anchored at one end of the skull bones which do not move and the mandible, the end of the lower jaw is movable. It is these muscles where the most common forms of TMJ are felt.

What Can Be Done?

The first course of action many times is to protect the tooth enamel. A “night guard” is used to cover the teeth at night. This does not stop the grinding; however, it does protect the tooth surface. Many “grinders” will grind right through the night-guard, which has a replacement cost of $350.00 to $500.00.

In the last 20 years, Hypnosis has been used to uncover the underlying reason why the patient is grinding and clenching during sleep hours. Once the thought process that is taking place can be discovered, a resolution can be found to this debilitating long-term problem.

Tips for TMJ Sufferers


Check and correct jaw posture:

1. Keep your teeth separated and jaw muscles relaxed (check every five to 10 minutes). Never let your teeth touch, except when eating or swallowing.

2. To relax your jaw muscles, place the tip of your tongue behind your lower front teeth, then let your tongue go completely relaxed. Your jaw muscles will relax when this is done properly.

The correct jaw posture is:
· Teeth apart.
· Tongue resting behind the teeth.
· Facial muscles smooth, still and relaxed.
· Lips just touching or slightly parted.

Other Tips:
1. Do not try to reproduce joint sounds or awkward jaw positions.
2. Do not stretch muscles by opening excessively wide or by moving the jaw side to side.
3. Avoid clenching or grinding.
4. Don’t bite nails, cheeks, chew gum or hold pencils or other items in your mouth.
5. Keep shoulders down and relaxed. Avoid awkward positions such as holding the phone between ear and shoulder.
6. Learn how to meditate or use self-hypnosis for relaxation.
7. Listen to relaxation tapes and practice relaxing visualization techniques.

Jaw Stretching Exercise:
· Place your hands on your face with your middle fingers on the jaw joints.
· Keeping your muscles relaxed, open your mouth as wide as possible without pain or strain.
· Hold open for five seconds.
· Then, close halfway (before teeth touch) and rest for five seconds.
· Repeat five times the first day. Add one more repetition each day, until you are opening 10 to 15 times each time you do the exercise.
· Repeat the exercise three to four times each day.
· If the exercise causes pain, reduce the number of repetitions or discontinue completely.

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