Many people who clench or grind their teeth when they are asleep ask whether teeth grinding causes ear pain. The answer is yes, if they grind their teeth every single night for years. What leads teeth grinding habit (bruxism) to an ear pain? It is all actually about temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
Patients with bruxism can develop their problem to a TMJ disorder, whereas TMJ disorder has ear pain as one of the symptoms. TMJ disorder is a bit complex to explain. When you grind your teeth at night your temporomandibular system would work. The system itself is made up of three components, including the joint, teeth, and neuromuscular system. The neuromuscular system of the jaw connects to the nerves and muscle, which are involved in lower jaw movement. The nerves in the lower jaw transmit pain signals to the brain. Unfortunately, the areas that are affected by the teeth grinding habit are not only muscles around the jaw. Pain in TMJ is usually due to inflammation within the structure, and it is felt in other facial structures including dull ear pain, toothache and neck pain. Moreover, the TMJ is located extremely near the ear canal and middle ear.
Sometimes people are confused whether the ear pain is caused by TMJ disorder or ear infection. Most patients who know nothing about TMJ assumed they have an ear infection because their symptoms are only in the ear, but when further examination is done they find a surprise that most ear pain has nothing to do with their ears.
How to Treat Ear Pain in TMJ Disorder Case
Run Soft Diet
Doctors suggest conservative treatment for ear pain which is caused by TMJ disorder. Eat soft diet that requires no heavy chewing of foods. If you need to consume vegetables or meat, make sure you choose the well-cooked meat and vegetables.
Use Warm Packs
Use warm packs a couple times a day when patients feel the ear pain frequently. It helps relax some of the musculature in the jaw area. If doctors diagnose patients get inflammation in the jaw joint, they will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen for about a week.
Use Mouth Guard
Use a mouth guard or night guard or bite plate at night during sleep. Mouth guard is purposed to help the jaw rest and prevent teeth grinding. As a result, the jaw joint relieves stress and surprisingly, TMJ disorder patients report instant relief after use.
Choose Clinically Effective Mouth guard
Mouth guard may not be the best device to cure teeth clenching, but the use of a mouth guard is reported effective by many of teeth grinding sufferers. At least they find their habit doesn’t damage the other components of the mouth. The mouth guard serves to prevent further wear of tooth enamel.
Choosing the best mouth guard is important. Each patient should have their own model, a model of mouth guard that fits properly in their teeth texture, impression, and structure.
Commonly the mouth guard is chosen by your dentist and requires much adjustment. Every time patient return to the dentist for tooth cleaning visit, this device has to be brought. Of course all those dentists thingy will take a lot of patient’s time and money. Therefore, most of people with teeth grinding habit prefer to using lab dental’s or pharmacist’s mouth guard. Their mouth guards are not too thick, custom made, high quality, and adequately cover all of the patient teeth.
Bite Splints for Severe TMJ Patients
People with severe TMJ disorder case may need bite splints. This is a device that seems to be similar with a mouth guard or sleep guard, but comes with different purpose, that is correcting the bite alignment. It’s more than a device to relieve pain or reduce damage to the teeth. People whose bad bites need to be corrected actually have misalignment issues. These issues also cause TMJ problem.
The use of bite splints is expected to give patients hope for any long-term relief. If patients with teeth grinding habit use a mouth guard only when they are asleep at night, patients with the misalignment issues have to use the bite splints around the clock, for 24 hours every single day.