Face and Jaw Pain
Bruxism or teeth grinding is usually treated by a dentist who orders a night guard or splint to keep the teeth from grinding together. The problem with this is that it doesn’t work in everyone and it may make some people worse. This is because splints don’t always address the real problem of muscle parafunction. Bruxism is not a tooth condition but a muscle condition. Bruxism is, in fact, the clenching of the teeth caused by abnormal muscle tone of the face. Clenching of the teeth can cause headaches, particularly at night or under stress. It is the relationship between the movements of the temporal muscle and the lateral pterygoid muscles that determines the presence of bruxism.
In order to treat bruxism, the clenching intensity of the teeth must be diminished. Splints can, unfortunately, intensify the clenching ability of the temporalis muscle so that the problem actually gets worse. There is a particular splint that, when worn at night, decreases the clenching of the jaw. It is called an anterior midline point stop and is available commercially for people with bruxism. This device, when used for several days, puts the condyle of the jaw in a stable position. It doesn’t work in everyone but it work in many who use it on a regular basis. This is a relatively small device, referred to as an AMPS device, that appears better than traditional splints in the management of bruxism, temporomandibular joint disease, and occlusal trauma.