June 05, 2017
Are there times you feel like your jaw is wired halfway shut, because it hurts to open fully? Do you notice a high degree of wear on your molars, even though you practice good dental hygiene?
You might be grinding or clenching your teeth in your sleep. This is a problem that can cause painful jaw disorders like TMJ, and ruin your smile, to say nothing of disrupting a good night’s rest.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition of the jaw that causes pain. The common symptoms of TMJ include:
Left untreated, TMJ can cause all kinds of trouble for you, including problems getting to sleep or staying asleep, persistent headaches and difficulty with eating.
For a lot of people, TMJ can be caused or exacerbated by bruxism, which is describes a habit of grinding or clenching teeth, particularly while you sleep. The reason bruxism can be so damaging during sleep is that you can only control so much of your movements while you are unconscious.
It is easy enough to picture: You go to sleep stressed out one night, and start grinding or clenching your teeth. The persistent movement or tension in the jaw causes pain, which can lead you to grit your teeth in response. You wake up and have no idea why you have a terrible headache and can barely move your jaw. Did you somehow get into a somnolescent bar-fight? Nope, you just fought with your jaw all night.
TMJ is a chronic condition that can get better or worse, depending on how you handle it. At first, you want to try to manage the acute symptoms, including pain and swelling. Alternating between moist heat and ice can relieve pain and decrease swelling. Over-the-counter analgesics like ibuprofen are designed to alleviate swelling, which may make it easier to open and close your jaw.
The second step involves preventing your TMJ from getting worse. You should focus on managing your stress levels, especially right before you go to bed at night. Avoid circumstances that require repetitive strong movements of your jaw, including chewing gum or eating crunchy foods. If this does not solve the problem, you should consult your doctor for additional treatments.
Again, nighttime can be the point where all your good effort comes to naught, if you cannot stop yourself from grinding your teeth. Some people find relief by using a bruxism mouth guard, also known as a night guard. This is a custom-made item that fits to your teeth and helps to hold your jaw in place so you cannot put the same pressure on your teeth or jaw. It can take some time to get used to, but a night guard might lessen your TMJ symptoms and help to protect your molars from excess wear or cracking.
TMJ caused by clenching teeth can make it harder for you to sleep at night, and create more problems for you during the day. By taking advantage of treatments for bruxism and TMJ, you can minimize the effects that it has on your life and your teeth.