When you wake up in the morning, do you feel relaxed and refreshed, or does your jaw feel stiff and achy? Perhaps the pain goes away as the day progresses, but returns again the next morning. The most likely cause of this mysterious morning jaw pain is bruxism, or grinding your teeth. Find out how serious this condition is and how it can lead to other jaw problems.
One Possible Cause of Morning Jaw Pain: Bruxism
MedlinePlus defines bruxism as clenching your teeth tightly or grinding them back and forth over each other. These actions occur subconsciously, most often while you’re sleeping. Although some people grind their teeth when stressed or anxious, nocturnal bruxism is the most serious form because it’s harder to control.
What Causes Bruxism?
There’s some debate in the medical community regarding precisely what causes teeth grinding, particularly while sleeping. A few factors that influence the condition in some people include:
- High stress levels
- Anxiety disorders
- Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea
- Drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages
What are the Symptoms of Bruxism?
If you complain about morning jaw pain and stiffness, you’re already familiar with one major symptom of bruxism. Others, according to MedlinePlus, include:
- Worn down teeth
- Ear and headaches
- Tooth sensitivity toward hot, cold or sweet foods
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD)
Another Possible Cause of Morning Jaw Pain: TMJ
One of the most serious problems associated with bruxism is that it can lead to TMJ problems. In fact, if morning joint pain and stiffness is only one of your symptoms, you may not only be grinding your teeth at night; you may have a full-scale TMJ disorder.
If you experience any prolonged jaw pain, whether in the morning or other time of day, you should schedule an appointment with Evanson DDS for a TMJ evaluation. We assess the tissues in your jaw joint to identify problems there and recommend the appropriate treatment.
What are the Symptoms of TMJ?
Morning pain and stiffness might be just one of your symptoms if you have TMJ. WebMD points out other signs of jaw joint disorders, including:
- Severe jaw pain and discomfort affecting one or both sides of the face.
- Swelling around the jaw.
- Heightened pain when you open your mouth wide.
- Jaws that become stuck open or closed.
- Clicking, popping or grating sounds when you open and close your mouth, which may or may not cause pain.
- Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite, as if the jaw abruptly went out of alignment.
- Achy teeth, neck and ears.
- Hearing problems or ringing in the ears.
Treating Bruxism and TMJ
If your only current symptom is morning jaw pain and stiffness, don’t let nightly teeth grinding develop into TMJ. At Evanson DDS, one of our main treatment options for bruxism is to fit patients with a custom mouth guard to wear at night.
If you discover you have TMJ, we recommend the following treatments:
- Take over-the-counter pain medication for temporary relief.
- Place a cold compress on your jaw to reduce pain and swelling.
- Eat soft foods. Avoid hard food, chewy food and gum.
- Make facial relaxation a habit so your jaw stays loose.
- Massage sore jaw joints to relieve tension.
- Wear a mouth guard nightly to prevent bruxism.
- Get fitted for an orthodontic appliance or retainer to reduce jaw discomfort and/or reposition the jaw joint.
- Consider surgery if your case is severe and other treatment methods aren’t working.
TMJ cases range from mild to severe. If you’re experiencing joint pain, don’t wait for the condition to worsen. Contact Evanson DDS online or call us at (720) 409-0008 to schedule a TMJ evaluation.Leave a reply →