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Bruxism (Grinding/TMJ) in Long Beach

The bad habits we don’t even know we have can be some of the most harmful. If you experience jaw stiffness, difficulty opening your mouth wide, tooth sensitivity, or tired jaw muscles, you may be clenching and grinding your teeth.

Damage You Didn’t See Coming

person holding their jaw in painClenching and bruxism (the medical term for grinding) are equally harmful, often leading to dull headaches, tender and painful jaws, painful and loose teeth, sensitivity to temperatures, fractured teeth, and TMJ. For many, symptoms are strongest in the morning because you’ve been tightening your jaw all night while you slept. If left untreated, this may wear away tooth enamel until crowns, bridges, dental implants, and dentures become necessary to repair or replace damaged teeth. In worst-case scenarios, we have seen teeth worn all the way down to the gums.

Receiving treatment in earlier stages is cost-effective compared to more intense treatments down the road. By tackling the problem now, you can spare yourself ongoing pain and potential surgery later.

It’s Not Just About Stress

At our dental practice, we don’t assume that stress is the main culprit. For adults, it can be a contributing factor, as some patients lock their jaws more during stressful seasons. However, many factors trigger this condition. Some of our patients have been told all their lives to “just relax”—and it didn’t change anything.

If you are truly stuck in a cycle of stress and anxiety, you might benefit from more practical steps to take to start feeling better, like pursuing counseling or starting a regular exercise routine. We may also prescribe you a muscle relaxant to take before bed.

Automatic Jaw Habits

Typically, this condition is a habit developed and reinforced over the years. Most people have no idea they’re doing it. By now, it’s simple muscle memory, as the jaw has become programmed to move in destructive ways. Whether you’re automatically holding your mouth too tight or subconsciously moving your jaw back and forth, your mouth is only doing what feels most natural.

For some, an underlying condition hides behind unhealthy habits. We always start by checking to see if you’re also facing a sleep disorder, TMJ, an abnormal bite, misaligned teeth, or missing teeth.

Training to Form Healthier Habits

We’ll manipulate the muscle to relieve jaw pain and teach you exercises and stretches to relieve tension. We coach patients to change unhealthy daytime habits by practicing new positions and rhythms until they start to feel normal. One trick is to remember “lips sealed, teeth apart.” Focus on only letting your teeth touch when you chew until you’re used to letting your jaw slightly drop every time your lips are closed.

Another strategy is to keep your tongue between your teeth when swallowing so the jaw muscles stay open. Start with your tongue between your teeth while your mouth is resting. As you swallow, open the teeth wider, but keep your tongue between them. Then return to a resting position, teeth still apart. Try several repetitions a few times a day to help your jaw get used to staying slightly open.

Bruxism and Kids

Pain and tooth damage resulting from improper mouth posture is also common in children. This usually has little to do with stress. Many happy and healthy kids form bad jaw habits for no reason at all. Others may have an underlying reason that needs to be addressed, like mouth irritation, allergies, or misaligned teeth.

The good news is that many kids outgrow this behavior by adolescence because their teeth and jaws grow and change shape quickly. In most cases, this doesn’t have time to become a damaging habit for children. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. We’ll help set your children up for good long-term habits before their permanent teeth suffer permanent damage.

Start a Better Habit

If you’re concerned, we’ll perform a careful evaluation to see what’s going on. Schedule an appointment today with Dr. Velasquez.

Bruxism (Grinding/TMJ) Long Beach CA | (562) 424-9473