Tinnitus and bruxism go hand-in-hand. The relationship between the two is quite elaborate although most people don’t know that the reason their ears are ringing is linked to teeth grinding. Below we’ll explore the relationship between tinnitus and bruxism and present the treatments that are available from your dentist.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition which causes you to gnash, grind and clench your teeth. Many people aren’t aware that they are grinding their teeth because they do it in their sleep (sleep bruxism) and unconsciously while they’re awake. Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder, so those that suffer from it are more at risk for other disorders such as snoring and repeated pauses in breathing (sleep apnea). Most people do not notice that they grind their teeth and clench their jaw until the symptoms of bruxism start appearing. These symptoms range from severe headaches, damaged teeth, jaw pain, and inability to open and close your mouth without discomfort and ringing in the ears.
Bruxism is part of a group of a conditions under the umbrella of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD). TMJD affects the joints that connect your jawbone to your skull and can lead to major oral damage if left untreated.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is often a symptom of another underlying condition like an ear injury, teeth grinding (bruxism), circulatory system disorders and age-related hearing loss. Tinnitus manifests itself as phantoms noises in the ear that sound like ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking and hissing. You could experience these noises in one or both ears and it can be so loud that it hinders your ability to hear real sounds or concentrate. Tinnitus can present itself randomly or you can hear these phantom sounds all the time.
Tinnitus comes in two forms: subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus. The subjective version is the most common type and involves phantom noises only you can hear. It is related to auditory nerve problems and the part of your brain that makes sense of nerve signals and interprets them as sounds. Conversely, objective tinnitus is classified by a blood vessel problem, middle ear bone conditions or muscle contractions that result in sounds your doctor can also hear when they perform an examination of your ears.
How are tinnitus and bruxism linked?
Bruxism is part of the array of TMJ disorders, it puts strain on the temporomandibular joint found on both sides of the head. This joint lives in front of the ears where the lower jawbone connects with the skull. When pressure is put on the joint is radiates into the ears since they are in close proximity. The phantom sounds you hear from tinnitus are caused by your bone structure responding to the action of teeth grinding and clenching. The more you grind and clench your teeth, the more ringing you’ll hear in your ears. However, not everyone who suffers from bruxism gets tinnitus. Tinnitus is only one of the many side-effects associated with teeth grinding.
What treatments are available for bruxism and tinnitus?
By treating bruxism, your tinnitus will fade. One of the more comprehensive treatments for bruxism (which we offer Dawson Dental) involves oral appliance therapy. First the dentist will make impressions of your teeth so they can study the tooth structure and arrangement in your mouth. The second step in this procedure uses neuromuscular treatment to relax your muscle to a more normal position. Using a Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation (TENS) unit, gentle electric stimulation is delivered to your jaw muscles.
It takes approximately one hour for the TENS machine to guide your muscles into relaxation. Once your muscles are relaxed, your dentist will register your bite by placing a putty-like materials between your teeth and moving your jaw into a comfortable position. Now that your dentist has a new impression of your teeth and jaw in its relaxed state, a custom oral appliance can be created. You will need to wear this removable oral appliance full time until your muscles are able to relax on their own. Even if you grind your teeth while wearing this appliance, you will not damage it or your teeth further. For less severe cases of bruxism, you can get a custom oral appliance to be worn only while you sleep.
The tinnitus should clear up on its own once your bruxism is treated and your muscles are able to respond to what the oral appliance is doing.
Please contact Dawson Dental for more information about our bruxism treatments or to book an appointment. Even if you do not experience tinnitus at this point, it’s important to treat bruxism before it leads to other conditions.