If you experience excessive clenching, grinding, or “lockjaw”- you could suffer from TMJ disorder. TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint; the joint which connects your lower jaw to your skull. This joint works like a hinge allowing us to talk, chew, and make facial expressions. TMJ problems can begin from a number of factors including stress, sleeping on one side of the jaw, excessive gum chewing, anxiety, overextending your jaw (by yawning, etc..). Leaving a TMJ disorder untreated can worsen other symptoms such as headache, earache, neck joint/muscle pain, etc…
In severe cases, chronic grinding can lead to loosening, fracturing, or loss of teeth. Over time, it can even change the appearance of your face. Since teeth grinding usually occurs during sleep, it can lead to sleep issues, including sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous disorder in which sleep is disrupted by interruptions in breathing and shallow breaths.
What you can do to help yourself:
If you find yourself clenching or grinding in stressful situations there are self-care practices you can try to reduce symptoms:
- Reduced consumption of alcohol and foods and drinks that contain caffeine
- Avoiding gum chewing and eating hard candy
- Not chewing on pencils, pens or other non-food objects
- Consciously relaxing your jaw and your facial muscles throughout the day
- Positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth when you have the urge to clench your teeth, which helps train your jaw muscles to relax
- Increased intake of water
If your clenching and grinding occur at night when it is not consciously controllable, there are devices that can be made by your dentist to help! A custom-made night guard (designed for your teeth only) fit tightly around your upper or lower teeth to prevent wear to your dentition and help control the urge to clench. Many dental insurance companies cover these types of night guards which helps reduce your cost out of pocket.
To book a TMJ consultation appointment call or email us today!