If you’ve ever experienced night-time teeth grinding, or bruxism in general, you may be aware of the short-term annoyances that come with it. Jaw ache, sore head, disturbed sleep and even an unhappy partner. While inconvenient, none of the effects above are permanent – unfortunately, there are some longer lasting effects that truly pose a threat to veteran bruxism sufferers. One example of this is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, commonly known as TMJ disorder.

If you’re wondering what bruxism is, or whether you suffer from it, you may need to explore the topic in a little more detail. Fortunately, my recent post should help you to determine whether you suffer from night bruxism – and ultimately, whether you should be concerned with the long-term effects of bruxism.

If you already know that your teeth are busy grinding while you’re sleeping but you’re not concerned, that may be about to change. Night-time bruxism can lead to all manner of problems. The sooner you get it sorted, the sooner you can have a peaceful night’s sleep.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is a little bit of a mouthful (no pun intended), so I will be referring to it as TMJ disorder from here on in. It is important to note that TMJ disorder isn’t a single condition nor is there a single symptom that all sufferers will experience. TMJ disorder is the name given to a number of issues relating to the joint that hinges the jaw to the cranium - the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ - and a couple of those disorders can be the result of night bruxism.

To understand TMJ disorders, we must first understand the TMJ in general. The point at which two bones meet is known as a joint. Muscles control the two bones either side of a joint to allow for movement. In the same way that your triceps and biceps allow you to flex your arms at the elbow, your cranial and facial muscles control the movement of your jaw. Smooth cartilage coats the bones to protect them from friction and allow for ease of movement, with a little help from a lubricating synovial fluid.

Some people may experience TMJ and its symptoms because they have high sensitivity to pain. A large proportion of people suffering from TMJ, however, experience it because their jaw muscles are overly active. The latter is an example of the condition being related to night-time bruxism. Symptoms include:

Pain in or around the joint that connects your jaw to your skull – this pain can radiate around your face, affecting your temple, ears, and cheeks Audible sound coming from your jaw when you speak or chew, such as clicking – this symptom alone should not concern you, as it can be totally normal Ear-specific conditions may arise due to the proximity of the problem to the ear, including tinnitus and vertigo

If you suspect that you’re suffering from TMJ disorder as a result of your night-time teeth grinding, don’t worry. You are not alone. An estimated ten million people in America alone experience a form of TMJ disorder at some point in their life.

Treating TMJ Disorders

Unfortunately, there is no cure for TMJ disorders. It is possible to control the pain and discomfort presenting in the area around the TMJ using over-the-counter painkillers (and prescribed medicines, in severe cases). Obviously, painkillers are not a long-term answer to the underlying issues - and prolonged use can quickly turn into misuse.

Treat your Bruxism and you can wave goodbye to TMJ Disorders

Fortunately, if you’re reading this article, it is likely that the symptoms that you are experiencing are a direct result of your night-time bruxism and the teeth grinding that come with it. Ergo, you do not need a miracle cure for TMJ disorder – you need to find a way to control and prevent clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth as you sleep.

While mouthguards can help to ease the damage to your teeth that grinding while sleeping can cause, they will do little to assist in any TMJ issues that you have. After all, your jaw muscles are still active! That is why myself, and many bruxism specialists, do not believe that mouthpieces should be considered as the ultimate prevention of night bruxism. Give a constant grinder a mouth guard and they’ll have chewed through it more rapidly than you could ever have imagined! That is why I began working on Sleeptrack, a prototype which combines hardware and software to analyze the unconscious habits of bruxism sufferers everywhere.

The Sleeptrack headband allows the application to upload information, gathered by the onboard EMG sensor, to the Sleeptrack application – through the cloud, while the wearer sleeps. By combining the data provided by the headband with the data that the user inputs into the app during the day (nutritional information, activity levels, medications) I am hoping to find a way of identifying the underlying cause of bruxism on a per patient basis – and correlate that data to find ways to prevent their nocturnal grinding habits. In my opinion, utilizing biofeedback in the fight against bruxism is key.

Do you have questions about this project ?
Get in touch: contact@sleeptrack.io   @SleepTrackIO   sleeptrackio