When TMD (or temporomandibular joint disorder) strikes, it can have several wide-ranging consequences. Depending on the exact nature and extent of your condition, those may include sore and painful facial muscles, a popping/clicking jaw, and in some cases, increasingly more sensitive teeth. Though the dysfunction centers on your jaw’s joints (TMJs), one of the many symptoms it can generate is the unconscious habit of grinding your teeth. When left untreated, TMJ disorder and resulting teeth-grinding can cause your teeth to hurt as well as the components of your jaw.
How TMJ Disorder Affects You
TMJ disorder can describe a number of different conditions that disrupt the proper function of your temporomandibular joints. For instance, one or both of your jaws may be damaged, out of proper alignment, chronically inflamed, and/or experiencing arthritis. Or, you may have suffered an injury to one or both joints, making it more difficult for them move as needed. For many patients, the discomfort can cause jaw joints and muscles to spasm, forcing your teeth to grind together.
What It Does to Your Teeth
Known as bruxism, the chronic grinding of your teeth can lead to several more compounding complications. Over time, the friction wears down the protective enamel of your teeth, which makes them more sensitive to irritations like food particles, beverages, and oral bacteria. If left untreated, it can also cause cracks, fractures, and breaks to occur in one or more teeth. Fortunately, your dentist may be able to help you address both your TMJ disorder and your sensitive teeth with a custom-designed oral appliance and appropriate restorative treatment, if necessary.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
There are many different reasons why TMJ disorder can occur. This condition is likely connected to the actual jaw joints or the associated muscles in the area. TMJ disorder may be caused by:
- Blunt force trauma: If you are involved in a fall, vehicular accident, or sports-related injury, it can damage your jaw and affect its alignment. As a result, the muscles work to overcompensate.
- Bruxism: As mentioned above, bruxism is a condition in which individuals clench or grind their teeth together. This can occur during the day or night, but most often occurs during sleep. This is one of the leading causes of TMJ issues.
- Erosion of the articular disc: If the jaw joints are not seated properly, the cushioning discs can erode or wear thin over time. When these changes occur, it can affect your bite and your TMJ.
- Arthritis: This condition can erode or wear down cartilage in the jaw joints.
- Stress: When you are anxious or stressed, you are at a higher risk for grinding your teeth. As a result, many individuals experience heightened TMJ issues during times of great stress.
How Can I Prevent Tooth Sensitivity Caused by TMJ Disorder?
If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, there are many different factors to consider when determining appropriate treatment. However, if your condition is occurring due to TMJ problems, then there are a few things you can do to address the situation. In the sections below, we will explore both professional and at-home treatments for TMD-induced tooth sensitivity.
Professional Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity
The first line of defense against tooth sensitivity caused by TMD is a custom oral appliance. This device fits comfortably and snugly over your teeth to reduce the effects of grinding or clenching. In fact, your oral appliance can be custom-made to place your lower jaw in a more favorable position, thereby alleviating pressure in the jaw joints.
Dental crowns can also protect teeth that are vulnerable to sensitivity. A crown covers the entire visible portion of a tooth, offering defense against extremely hot, cold, or sugary foods. Keep in mind, however, if the initial cause of your tooth sensitivity is TMD, you will likely need to wear an oral appliance to protect your new investment (and your oral health).
To combat dental sensitivity, your hygienist or dentist can place topical fluoride. This substance can be applied in gel, foam, or liquid form, and can be performed at every routine dental cleaning.
In extreme situations, your doctor may even recommend a muscle relaxant to help alleviate jaw discomfort. In turn, this should reduce the likelihood of tooth sensitivity.
Home Remedies for Tooth Sensitivity
First and foremost, if you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, use a desensitizing toothpaste. This offers a daily defense against discomfort to heat and cold. Generally, it takes a few days of use to notice a difference. However, if used consistently, it can deliver impressive results. Other home remedies include:
- Cold compresses: If one or more of your teeth feel tender or sore, apply an ice pack or cold compress to the external jaw. This can reduce any inflammation in the jaw muscles and help alleviate your discomfort.
- Salt water rinses: Add a half a teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water. Rinse with this solution a couple of times a day to keep harmful bacteria at bay and help reduce sensitivity.
- Green tea: Packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, green tea can be used as a desensitizing mouthwash. Simply swish with unsweetened green tea for about 30 seconds twice a day.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
There are several warning signs that indicate the presence of TMJ disorder. Many patients experience:
- Pain in the jaw joints
- Tooth sensitivity
- Radiating pain from the jaw to the ear or temples
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
- Discomfort or difficulty while chewing
- Orofacial pain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a dentist right away. With early intervention, you can alleviate your discomfort and prevent further damage from occurring.
Contact Lake Forest Dental Arts Today
If you suffer from TMJ disorder, then some symptoms (like bruxism) can lead to sensitive teeth as well as its many other symptoms. To learn more, schedule a consultation by calling Lake Forest Dental Arts in Lake Forest, IL, at 847-234-0517. Our practice mostly serves the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs but we often get patients from all over the United States.