Lots of people have nervous habits, such as lip biting, cheek chewing, nail biting, and pencil chewing. Though they may seem harmless, these habits can be detrimental to your oral health, leading to issues with your bite (occlusion) and/or the temporomandibular joints on either side of your jaw. At Trillium Dental, we offer Invisalign® and TMJ treatments to address these issues. So what is the cause of nervous habits like lip biting? Our family dentists will discuss this condition below.

Causes of BFRBs

Most often, lip biting, cheek chewing, and other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) have an underlying psychological cause. Anxiety is a common cause of BFRBs, as is the physiological response to fear and stress. When we are overwhelmed, we create coping mechanisms to provide a distraction from the emotional pain we are experiencing — in this case, an anxiety disorder or a dangerous or stressful situation.

What’s interesting about BFRBs is that lots of people don’t even know when they have these nervous habits. In fact, you could be doing one right now subconsciously. Since these behaviors are compulsive, often people don’t know about them until the consequences start to emerge. For example, people who bite their lips will start to develop painful sores on the lips, as well as bleeding lips, swollen lips, and redness. The same goes for nail biters; you might not realize how much you’re biting your nails until your fingertips become sore or inflamed.

If you are suffering from a BFRB, this can be a difficult habit to break. This is especially true for people who deal with anxiety or have a lot of stress, as the only way to prevent the painful consequences of these nervous habits is to get to the root of the issue. For many people, therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes (e.g. yoga, meditation, sleep, and a balanced diet) can help reduce stress, as well as the BFRBs that come with it.


There are many consequences of BFRBs, depending on the nervous habits that are expressed. It is not uncommon for nail biters to experience ingrown nails, fingernail infections, and a host of tooth problems, such as tooth fractures, filed-down teeth, and an increased risk of gingivitis. For lip and cheek biters, the most obvious consequences are swollen, torn up lips and mouth sores.

People who express these compulsive BFRBs are also at a greater risk of causing damage to the temporomandibular joint and the integrity of their teeth. Chronic BFRBs can lead to the following conditions:


TMJ disorders, or TMJDs, refer to any kind of damage that has occurred to one or both temporomandibular joints, which are located in front of the ears on both sides of the face. TMJ disorders often result in a popping jaw and jaw pain, which makes it more difficult to open and close your mouth fully. Patients may also experience discomfort while chewing, as well as lockjaw, headaches, and earaches. Many people with TMJ disorders also have an uneven bite or crooked teeth (major causes of TMJ disorder), which can make symptoms even more unpleasant.

Most common in women ages 30-50, TMJ disorder is a condition that affects many adults around the world — especially people with anxiety, panic disorders, and chronic stress. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to alleviate TMJ pain, such as dental treatment using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit to relax the facial muscles and correct your bite. Night guards can also help prevent people from clenching or grinding their teeth at night, which can cause inflammation in the temporomandibular joints. Other TMJ treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and jaw pain, as well as hot and cold compresses. You can also massage the area to help loosen the jaw muscles, or do meditation or progressive muscle relaxation.

In some cases, corrective dental treatment is required to treat TMJ disorders. Your dentist might use the TENS unit to realign your jaw with a custom-made orthotic, or they might make splints to help reposition the jaw. Surgery may be required to correct jaw abnormalities, but this is fairly rare. Most of the time, TMJ symptoms subside after a few weeks, with the recovery time being even less if you correct poor habits (like BFRBs) and learn how to manage your stress in a healthier way. Other causes of TMJ disorders, such as facial trauma, arthritis, dislocation, poor dental health, or structural jaw problems, will need to be addressed by your family dentist and/or general practitioner in order to determine the right treatment plan.


The other main consequence of lip biting and other nervous habits is crooked teeth. When you chew on your lips, cheeks, nails, or other objects, you’re forcing your jaw into an unnatural position, which can cause the teeth to shift. BFRBs like nail biting and pencil chewing can also cause the roots of the teeth to become deformed, which results in crooked, unhealthy teeth. The last thing you want is to have a root canal because the nerves under your teeth become damaged or infected, and you certainly don’t want to have your teeth break or splinter either.

Hardly anyone has perfect teeth to begin with, and if you do, you’re one of the lucky ones! If you have misaligned teeth, there are many teeth straightening methods available today that can help you get the smile you’ve always wanted. Braces and Invisalign® are two easy ways to correct your bite and straighten your teeth, and you’d be surprised at how your self-esteem increases and your anxiety subsides when you feel confident in your smile. Got perfect teeth? Don’t jeopardize your oral health by chewing on things that aren’t food, like nails, pencils, ice cubes, and those pesky clothing tags.


If you are suffering from TMJ disorder, misaligned teeth, or any other consequence of BFRBs, our dentists are here to help. We’ll take x-rays and perform a dental exam to determine the right treatment plan for you, whether that be TMJ therapy with our TENS unit, oral surgery, or just a change in lifestyle habits. Contact us today to learn more, or book an appointment online at Trillium Dental in Ottawa!


OTTAWA, ONTARIO – New research led by University of Bristol’s Dr. Martin Ruecklin proves the oldest jawed vertebrates had teeth, which suggests teeth and jaws evolved together.

The paper Development of teeth and jaws in the earliest jawed vertebrates was published Oct. 17 in Nature, the International Weekly Journal of Science. The study is telling, as previous research suggested the first jawed vertebrates were toothless.

Dr. David Bartos, a beauty dentist in Ottawa, and his business partner Dr. Mark Northcott are interested in how this research shows the tightly linked harmony of our teeth and jawbones. Our six family dental offices serve patients in the greater Ottawa area, and we help improve jaw function and placement with neuromuscular dentistry.

The team included researchers from across the globe. Swiss physicists joined forces with paleontologists from the University of Bristol, the Natural History Museum and Australia’s Curtin University to study the prehistoric jawed fish Compagopiscis. The team used well-preserved fossils and high energy X-rays to learn how the fish’s teeth and jaws developed.

“We were able to visualize every tissue, cell and growth line within the bony jaws, allowing us to study the development of the jaws and teeth,” says Dr. Ruecklin. “We could then make comparisons with the embryology of living vertebrates, thus demonstrating that placoderms possessed teeth.”

The high energy X-rays are not invasive. This method gave the researchers extremely detailed data without destroying the fossil. Scientists previously thought these ancient vertebrate species were toothless and used their jawbones like scissors. The study gives firm evidence that primitive jawed vertebrates had jaws and teeth.

“These wonderfully preserved fossils from Australia yield many secrets of our evolutionary ancestry but research has been held back waiting for the kind of non-destructive technology that we used in this study,” says Natural History Museum researcher Dr. Zerina Johanson. “Without the collaborations between paleontologists and physicists, our evolutionary history would remain hidden in the rocks.”

Drs. Bartos and Northcott practice neuromuscular dentistry, a treatment philosophy which finds the delicate balance between your facial muscles, your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and your bite. We understand the complex relationship between your teeth and jaw, and our custom orthotics will help you stabilize your bite. You may suffer from migraines, neck and face pain, ringing ears, a popping jaw or numbed fingertips. All of these symptoms may stem from your misaligned TMJ. Contact our team to test your jaw alignment with our advanced technology.


Many people suffer from a condition called TMJ disorder, which causes popping, stiffness, and/or pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints. TMJ disorder, or TMD, can be a real nuisance, making it difficult to open and close your mouth, speak, and chew. If you are experiencing jaw pain or have a popping jaw, our dentists highly recommend trying TMJ therapy to set things straight.

There are many causes of TMJ dysfunction, including facial injuries, jawbone deterioration, arthritis, tooth grinding, tooth clenching, stress, muscle tension, and dentures, as well as nervous habits, like chewing your cheeks, biting your lips, or biting your nails. Most often, TMJ disorders are temporary, and they can usually be corrected if the disks that connect the temporomandibular joints to the jawbone have not slipped to the point of deterioration.

At Trillium Dental, we offer TMJ treatments for patients who are suffering from jaw pain or a popping, clicking jaw as the result of a TMD. Our dentists have years of experience treating TMJ disorders, and we are confident that we can provide relief and help realign your jaw into its proper position. Here’s what you need to know about our TMJ treatments:


Our TMJ treatments use a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) unit, which relaxes the jaw to provide relief for painful symptoms. Often, people with TMJ disorders endure painful symptoms, like jaw pain, headaches, and jaw popping and cracking. When you visit our local dental clinic for your TMJ treatment, we’ll relax your jaw to relieve these symptoms and drain the lactic acid from the facial muscles. Then, we’ll be able to determine the condition, disease, or temporary issue that is causing your jaw to pop or become stiff and painful, so we can form a plan to address it.


When your jaw is relaxed, our dentists will be able to determine your correct jaw position and create a custom orthotic to adjust your jaw into its ideal alignment. We’ll take measurements of your mouth with our Myotronics K7 system, which will help us determine what specific corrections need to be made. Once we’ve created your mouth guard, you can begin retraining your jaw in accordance with the ideal bite (occlusion) and correct your misaligned jaw over time.


Part of what differentiates our TMJ treatments from those offered by other family dental clinics in Ottawa is that we offer a lasting solution to your painful, popping jaw. Rather than simply massaging the area and giving you advice about how to nurse your jaw back to health at home, we do the work for you by relaxing your jaw and taking steps to correct your TMJ disorder. Many patients have been able to overcome their TMDs with our TENS unit and custom mouth guards, and you can, too.


At this point, you might be wondering if TMJ therapy is right for you. Unfortunately, we won’t know for sure until you visit one of our dental offices in Ottawa for a consultation with one of our family dentists. Though we won’t be able to correct every TMJ disorder (slipped disks and extreme jaw deterioration are a different story), we would be more than happy to assess your situation and determine whether or not you’d be a good candidate for TMJ treatment.

At Trillium Dental, we have found the most success treating TMJ disorders in patients with misaligned jaws. If you are wondering whether or not TMJ therapy is right for you, consider these signs of a misaligned jaw:

  • Headaches and/or migraines
  • Pain in the jaw, neck, and/or face
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing and/or speaking
  • Facial spasms
  • Toothaches
  • Lockjaw and/or jaw popping
  • Ringing ears and/and earaches
  • Numb, tingling fingertips

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s worth visiting your local dentist and inquiring about different TMJ treatments. In the meantime, you can relieve any painful symptoms by taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, and massaging the area. Warm and cold compresses are also beneficial, as alternating warm and cold packs helps to increase blood flow to the area. Also try to refrain from overextending when you open your mouth, as this can result in lockjaw.


TMJ dysfunction (also known as TMJ disorder, TMJD, or TMD) is a common problem that many people face, causing them to seek TMJ treatment at their local dental clinic or doctor’s office. Despite the prevalence of TMJ disorder, there are no standard medications or remedies for this condition, which has led medical professionals to get creative in terms of neuromuscular dentistry treatments and therapies. At Trillium Dental in Ottawa, we offer bruxism and TMJ treatments involving the use of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) unit that helps to realign the jaw into its correct position with a custom-made orthotic. Contact us today to learn more, or continue reading for some basic information about TMDs.


Unlike other dental problems, such as gum disease, oral cancer, and tooth cavities, there are many possible causes of TMJ disorder, and some patients have a combination of two or more causes. These include:

  • Traumatic facial injury — in some cases, patients with a TMD have suffered a facial injury that has affected their temporomandibular joint and/or the surrounding jawbone. This can cause the jawbone to be misaligned, leading to jaw pain and inhibited jaw movement.
  • Teeth grinding — dental patients who perpetually clench or grind their teeth (known as bruxism) are at a heightened risk of developing a TMD, as this can interfere with the natural sliding hinge function of the jawbone. If you grind or clench your teeth, talk to your dentist about prevention methods, such as night guards for your teeth.
  • Arthritis — arthritis affects the cartilage and joints in the body, and it is not particularly uncommon for patients with arthritis to also experience jaw pain or discomfort. Arthritis can damage the temporomandibular joint, causing TMJ problems, such as neck and facial pain, difficulty chewing, and more.
  • Disc erosion/dislocation — since each temporomandibular joint fits to the jawbone’s socket and ball with a disc, erosion or dislocation of these discs can cause a TMD. A dental x-ray is required to determine whether or not this is the case, so be sure to consult your family dentist if you think you have an eroded or dislocated disc.


The human jawbone has a temporomandibular joint on both sides, allowing you to open and close your mouth in a sliding hinge motion. Given the potential causes of TMJ disorders listed above, it is possible that you can experience symptoms of a TMD on one or both sides of the face. Here are the most common TMD symptoms that patients experience:

  • Jaw pain — jaw pain is the most common symptom of TMJ disorder; however, it is important to note that jaw pain can be caused by a number of things, including earaches and sinus infections. If you are experiencing chronic jaw pain that lasts longer than a few weeks, see your local dentist about possible TMJ pain treatments.
  • Facial soreness — many people with a TMD will also experience soreness in other areas of the face, including the temples, forehead muscles, and even the ears. This is another reason why it’s important to rule out other medical issues before pursuing TMJ treatment; you may simply have a sinus infection or other illness.
  • Popping jaw — If the disks in either side of your jaw pop or click when you open and close your mouth, this could be a symptom of a TMD. Often, this causes pain, so be sure to check in with your family dentist if your jaw constantly makes a popping or clicking sound and this is accompanied by jaw pain or headaches.
  • Noise when chewing — a grinding or crunching noise when you chew is another possible indication of a TMD. This is because the natural hinge movement of the disks is inhibited when the temporomandibular joint is injured or deteriorated, causing a grinding sound when it would otherwise be silent.
  • Limited jaw movement — many people with a TMD experience trouble opening their mouths, whether that be due to lockjaw or just difficulty opening their mouth more than a few centimeters wide. It is not uncommon for patients with a TMJ disorder to also experience pain when they open and close their mouths, so check in with a doctor or dentist if this is the case.
  • Headaches — headaches are another common sign of TMJ disorders, but as with jaw pain, headaches are caused by a number of things, like stress, illness, dehydration, medication, hangovers, etc. Visit your family dentist if you are experiencing headaches in addition to any of the other TMD symptoms listed above.


Given that there is no streamlined process for diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder, each dentist and doctor will have a slightly different process for addressing TMDs. Some may simply take an x-ray and offer advice with regard to pain medications, while others might offer TMJ therapy options, known as neuromuscular dentistry techniques. Biofeedback techniques are sometimes used, as are other relaxation methods such as the TENS unit we use here at Trillium Dental.

When you visit our Ottawa dental clinic for TMJ pain, our dentists will take an x-ray to determine whether there is an issue with your temporomandibular joints. We will also feel your jaw and ask about the symptoms you have been experiencing, whether that be jaw pain, a popping jaw, or any other kind of facial soreness. If our dentists believe you would be a good candidate for our TMJ treatment, we will schedule a separate appointment where we can use the TENS unit to your ideal jaw alignment. This allows us to create a custom mouthpiece for you to wear as you retrain your jaw into its natural position, thus reducing or eliminating painful TMD symptoms.


At Trillium Dental, we regularly treat patients with TMJ disorders by fixing uneven bites with custom orthodontics. Contact us today to learn more about our TMJ treatments, or visit us today in Alta Vista, Kanata, Orleans, Stittsville, Stittsville West, Downtown Ottawa, or the Bayshore and Westgate Malls. We look forward to helping you live without jaw pain!


Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, also known as TMJ disorder, is a very common condition involving persistent jaw pain and restricted movement of the muscles surrounding the jawbone. At Trillium Dental in Ottawa, we commonly treat patients with TMJ disorder and help them realign their jaw to its proper placement using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit and a custom-made orthotic. This TMJ treatment allows us to identify your ideal alignment and create a personalized mouthpiece for you to wear in order to retrain your jaw into its natural position.

Though TMJ disorder is very common among adults, not everyone knows what the causes and symptoms are, leading many to live with it and not seek treatment. At Trillium Dental, we strongly encourage patients to visit our Ottawa dental clinic if they are experiencing any kind of TMJ pain, as this could be indicative of a more serious issue. In most cases, TMJ disorder is nothing more than a jaw misalignment, which can easily be readjusted with specialized dental care. That being said, here are some factors that may have had a role in your TMJ disorder.


  • Jaw injuries
  • Jawbone deterioration
  • Joint disease (arthritis)
  • Bruxism (tooth grinding and clenching)
  • Stress and muscle tension
  • Dentures that are not the right size or shape
  • Nervous habits, such as biting nails

According to the Canadian Dental Association, there are many causes of TMJ disorder, and each type of disorder has its own set of consequences. Those who experience pain in the muscles around the temporomandibular joint, for example, may experience different symptoms than those who suffered a jaw injury while playing sports. Nevertheless, some of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder include the following.


  • Jaw pain
  • Soreness in the ear, facial muscles, and temples
  • Popping or cracking jaw when you open your mouth
  • Grinding or crunching noise when you chew
  • Restricted jaw movement and trouble opening your mouth
  • Headaches and migraines


If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ disorder listed above, such as persistent jaw pain, jaw popping, or restricted jaw movement, it’s worth a trip to your local dental clinic to find out whether or not you have a TMJ disorder. Contact us today to learn more about our neuromuscular dentistry services, and book your dental appointment today at Trillium Dental in Ottawa. We look forward to helping you live a life free of jaw pain!


One of the dental services we provide here at Trillium Dental in Ottawa is neuromuscular dentistry, which encompasses a wide range of pain relief treatments for patients who are suffering from a misaligned jaw. Our neuromuscular dentistry procedures involve the correction of misaligned jaws by relaxing the facial muscles and providing long-lasting jaw alignment solutions for our patients. But how exactly do we do this?


As previously mentioned, neuromuscular dentistry is a type of dentistry that aims to correct misaligned jaws and treat the painful complications that come with them. Often, misaligned jaws are a product of bruxism, a condition involving excessive teeth grinding, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, a disorder classified by persistent jaw pain and inhibited movement. At Trillium Dental, our neuromuscular dentists can help these patients and alleviate their symptoms by:

  • Relieving pain and draining lactic acid from facial muscles by relaxing the surrounding facial muscles with a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit.
  • Identifying the condition, disease, or temporary ailment in question, as well as the optimal occlusion (where the facial muscles should be).
  • Taking measurements of the mouth using our Myotronics K7 system in order to make a custom orthotic, which corrects the misaligned jaw over time.
  • Repositioning and retraining the jaw according to the optimal occlusion using the custom orthotic, or mouth guard.
  • Eventually eliminating painful symptoms.

As a family dental clinic, we provide gentle, comprehensive dental care for each of our patients — especially when it comes to neuromuscular dentistry procedures. The process of correcting a misaligned jaw is one that cannot be rushed, so we work with your oral and facial makeup to realign the jaw as naturally and painlessly as possible. The process we use is safe, comfortable, and non-invasive with long-lasting pain relief as the end goal.


Neuromuscular dentistry is only used to provide pain relief and corrections for misaligned jaws and several other conditions of the face and oral cavity, so it’s important to know the signs to look for when seeking treatment. Signs of a misaligned jaw include:

  • Frequent headaches and/or migraines
  • Persistent pain in the neck, jaw, and face
  • Difficulty chewing or speaking
  • Facial muscle spasms
  • Toothaches
  • A cracking or clicking jaw
  • Lockjaw
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Numbness and tingling in the fingertips

It is important not to ignore these signs if you start to notice them, as they can be an indicator of a greater issue such as a misaligned jaw, TMJ dysfunction, bruxism, or a similar condition. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, give your local neuromuscular dentist a call immediately so they can give you the pain relief you need and make a long-lasting, if not permanent jaw correction.


Our dentists at Trillium Dental have treated many patients who suffer from misaligned jaws, and we can provide you with a safe neuromuscular dentistry procedure so you can get back to living a normal, pain-free life. Give us a call today, visit our dental clinic in Ottawa, or request an appointment online!