Teeth grinding explained – know and manage the symptoms
Dr. Rick Iskandar
You’ve heard me talk before about the dangers of bruxism (that is, clenching and grinding disease) if you haven’t please have a look at these videos on our YouTube channel:
Today we’re going to dive right into bruxism self-diagnosis. The warning signs to look out for, and tests you can do to identify if YOU have a problem with this disease, and whether you need to see a professional about it.
I don’t need tell you that these are stressful times. Most of us are on autopilot and not aware of what our bodies go through on a daily basis, our minds have become masters of our bodies, pushing on through tension, anxiety or even quite severe pain.
In many situations, this may be considered a beneficial adaptation, like progressive overloading your weights at the gym, allowing you to increase your strength over time, but when it comes to knowing and responding to your bodies ‘needs’ this lack of awareness can be not only be masking underlying disease, but even damaging our bodies irreversibly without our knowledge. This damage can range from shallow cracks in the teeth, to osteoarthritis and even permanent dislocation of the jaw joint.
So if I ask you right now if you’re clenching and grinding, you’ll probably say no – I’d say that about 7 out of 10 of my patients who have actually done permanent damage to their teeth through bruxism are unaware that there is even a problem. This is something to be worried about.
So how can YOU, at home, identify if this is something that applies to you? Here are four things you can do right now at home to see if this is a problem for you.
Identifying if there is a problem
1. Find your trigger/pressure points
So first we’re feeling for painful areas in the three main pairs of muscles involved with facial tension from clenching and grinding:
- The masseter we can feel very easily across the bottom part of the back of the jaw, feel for any knots
- The second muscle we’re feeling for is our temporalis, now this one’s a bit more tricky because it’s deeper – we’re feeling for the bottom border of our cheekbone and pushing upwards and forwards to see if there is any tension or pain radiating up into the temple area.
- The lateral pterygoid muscle is deeper still, and you’re following the underside of the cheekbone as far up and back as you can – when this one’s tense you can really feel it – it feels like your ear or jaw joint in there is about to pop.
2. Carrot test
Guys, this may come as a bit of a shock but your jaw should not ache when you are eating.
We find that a good benchmark to see how much tension you’re holding on to is to see how your muscles feel after eating a whole carrot – I know when it’s coming up to top-up time for my masseter injections because I really struggle to finish a whole carrot because my chewing muscles feel so fatigued
3. Awareness chart
This is an exercise we use with our patients over a period of two weeks to “check-in” with their facial muscles twice a day and record how their muscles are feeling with a red-yellow-green traffic light system. We have found this builds a level of awareness that empowers patients to get their tension under control by minimising unconscious clenching and tension by bringing it to the front of their minds. If you think the awareness chart exercise might benefit you, I will make them available to you free of charge during the stay-at-home period, just let us know you’d like one in the comments or by email.
4. Linea Alba
In a well-lit environment, have a look at the inside skin of your cheeks in the mirror – if you are clenching and grinding your teeth together, you’ll notice a white line or pattern across it, this is caused by friction between the teeth which are moving much more than they should, thickening the lining of the cheek.
Okay, now you know how to identify if this is a problem for you, let me know what you discovered in the comments below and stay tuned, our next post we’ll be talking about home remedies and professional treatment options to protect your teeth and keep you out of pain.
Thanks fam, keep smiling 😊
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