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Does COVID have you clenching?

Adam Fienman, DDS discusses the recent rise in TMJ pain and what those suffering can do.

In 2021, the American Dental Association (ADA) reported that more than 70% of surveyed dentists said they had seen an increase of teeth grinding and clenching among patients, and more than 60% of these dentists said they had seen a rise in Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain in their patients.

On a local level, Dr. Adam Fienman of Adam Fienman, DDS said his experiences in dental health echoes that of the ADA studies, witnessing more incidents of patients visiting his office with dentofacial pain and broken teeth than in years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone is living life right now with an increased level of stress,” he said. “Everywhere we turn, we are confronted with change. Things we took for granted and that felt ‘easy’ before have become more difficult. Our day-to-day adventures have become more challenging.”

And thus, many of us are— unknowingly— grinding and clenching. 

Dr. Fienman said the vast majority of TMJ pain is related to the chewing muscles that support the jaw joint; however, the pain is not always present.

“For most people, there are long periods, months to years, of little to no pain punctuated by flare ups of intense pain that could last for days or weeks,” he explained. “I typically get a visit from a patient at these times of acute flare up.”

If you are experiencing or have experienced a flare up, don’t panic. Instead, Dr. Fienman said to be proactive and make changes to your habits for a week, so you can see how your body responds. Testing out a soft diet, avoiding chewing gum, taking anti-inflammatories on a regular schedule and choosing activities that will help reduce stress like meditation and exercise were some of his suggestions.

However, if it has been a while since you have seen your dentist or your pain persists, it may be time to make an appointment for an evaluation. When patients come in to Dr. Fienman’s office and complain of TMJ pain, he first finds the source of the issue by interviewing the patient, taking the appropriate dental images and completing a thorough examination. Armed with this information, he and his staff can then develop a treatment plan to help patients put an end to their pain.

He said the basic treatment plan for most flare ups include soft diet, anti-inflammatories, heat or cold therapy and bite guard therapy. However, some situations require other therapies that could range from medications, electrical stimulation, low level laser therapy and even Botox therapy, which Dr. Fienman’s office offers as an adjunct to traditional TMJ therapies to help patients achieve their optimal level of dental health.

“We have all heard the name Botox, usually related to aesthetics and a youthful, wrinkle-free look,” he explained. “Botox is an injectable toxin that works by blocking the ability of a muscle to contract. Botulinum Toxin can be used therapeutically to reduce the symptoms of TMJ myofascial pain. Botulinum Toxin injections can be used to help calm overactive chewing muscles, giving the patient months of pain relief.”

Dr. Fienman is constantly learning about new techniques to help his patients. For more information on how to treat your aching jaw or any other dental-related needs, call (248)-539-3600 or visit fienmandds.com.  

5 Tips to Minimizing TMJ Pain

  • Choose a soft diet

  • Avoid chewing gum

  • Regularly take anti-inflammatories

  • Make time for daily meditation/exercise

  • Seek professional help from your dentist

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