Do you wake up with a tension headache or avoid taking big bites due to a stiff or popping jaw? When the jaw joint, or TMJ, is overworked or strained, it can produce some very unwelcome symptoms. Some patients may be surprised to learn that their ear pain or chronic headaches are rooted in TMJ dysfunction. This TMJ dysfunction is commonly known as TMD.
What is TMD?
TMD refers to temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The TMJ is the sliding hinge joint that allows you to open and close your jaw. This joint connects your jaw to your skull. When the muscles around the TMJ become irritated or inflamed, the joint can no longer move correctly and the resulting symptoms can be felt throughout the upper body, including the jaw, ear, head and neck.
When Your Jaw Feels the Stress
TMJ issues can be a result of genetics, arthritis, jaw injury or misaligned teeth. However, one of the most common causes of jaw pain is teeth grinding. Teeth grinding or clenching (also known as bruxism) is a common (but subconscious) response to stress. Without even knowing it, you may be clenching your teeth together while watching TV during the day or grinding your teeth back and forth as you sleep at night. This type of exerted force and pressure on your jaw joint and surrounding muscles is simply more than it was designed to handle.
Do you realize how much extra pressure or “stress” you are putting on your jaw joint if you have a teeth grinding habit? A Chicago Tribune article states that bruxism puts hundreds of pounds of pressure on tooth surfaces. Typically, chewing exerts 20 to 40 pounds on the teeth, but the pressure from grinding can be 250 pounds or more. It makes sense, therefore, that bruxism can lead to jaw discomfort as well as broken teeth, tension headaches and even neck pain.
How A Dentist Can Help
We live in a “stressed out” society. While we always encourage our patients to find ways to relax so that teeth grinding can be limited, it is not always possible. If you can’t seem to stop yourself from clenching or grinding your teeth on a daily basis, we have ways to help. Since most of the damage is done at night, many patients find effective jaw pain relief by wearing a custom oral appliance or mouth guard. This not only shields your teeth from the persistent friction, but it also gives your TMJ the chance to rest instead of work while you sleep. Once the tissues and muscles calm down around your jaw joint, your painful jaw symptoms can resolve and the TMJ can regain proper function.
Do you have a stressed out TMJ? Are you experiencing jaw symptoms, sore teeth or morning headaches? Call Green Dental of Alexandria.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Hye Park, Green Dental of Alexandria
Green Dental of Alexandria – Alexandria Dentist
1725 Duke St, Suite GR03
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 549-1725