Nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching isn’t just annoying for you and anyone nearby — it could also be what’s causing your chronic head and TMJ (aka jaw) pain. The condition known as TMD, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, is often the result of teeth that don’t fit together quite right. Stress can make the nocturnal grinding and clenching worse. Fortunately, a qualified dentist or a specialist can treat a painful TMJ to help relieve your chronic pain.
What Causes a Painful TMJ?
TMD is most often caused by a misaligned bite. Maybe you never had braces to straighten out your crooked teeth, or perhaps you did but your teeth have started to shift back into the original position. Facial trauma or even biting down too hard on something can also lead to minor adjustments in the bite that have a big impact on how your TMJ functions.
Joint problems like arthritis can also cause pain in the TMJ, as well as a simple change in sleeping position. If you have the warning signs of TMD, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a professional for a diagnosis. That’s your chance to discuss your symptoms, when they are most likely to occur, and how you can go about getting some relief.
The symptoms of TMD include:
- Feeling a click or pop when you open and close your mouth
- Chronic headaches and jaw pain
- Weak or worn teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose or shifting teeth
How Is TMD Treated?
Once you have been diagnosed with TMD, you are one step closer to finding the relief you seek. Chronic jaw pain is most commonly treated with an oral appliance, a small device that looks like an athletic mouthguard. You wear it only while you sleep, and it cushions the tooth enamel from clenching and grinding. Some also bring the jaw into better alignment.
And you won’t necessarily have to wear an oral device forever. As reported in the Huffington Post, using an oral appliance can largely cure teeth grinding/jaw clenching in about 70% of cases.
Additional treatments for TMD include occlusal correction, splint therapy, and even surgical solutions.
At-Home Solutions for Jaw and Head Pain
While you are undergoing a professional treatment for TMJ pain, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate some lifestyle changes to stop teeth grinding and clenching and relieve jaw and head pain. Because stress is one of the most common causes of nighttime teeth grinding, you may want to try these common stress-relieving tactics:
- Adopt vigorous exercise
- Try talk therapy
- Meditate or do yoga
- Cut out caffeine or alcohol
Applying a warm washcloth on the TMJ at night before you go to sleep can also help relax it to prevent grinding and clenching.
About the Authors
Dr. Steve Koo and Dr. Thomas Weil are Houston’s most trusted oral and maxillofacial surgeons. To learn more about TMJ, including whether or not you have it and how this painful condition can be treated, please do not hesitate to contact your oral surgeon at 713-783-5560.