Do you grind your teeth frequently? If you do it chronically, it can cause earaches, chronic headaches, tingling fingers, and even migraines. Aggressive grinding of teeth is very common and can cause the muscles of the jaw to build up lactic acid and become sore. the temporal muscles are often the most common teeth grinding muscles. Soreness in the temporal muscles is the cause of most headaches.
Your TMJs, or temporomandibular joints, connect your jaw to your skull, just below your ears. These hinge joints allow motion of the mouth, so the jaw can move back and forth, up and down, and sideways. For a number of reasons, the TMJs may become misaligned. The jaw, then, does not naturally sit in proper position. Muscles and nerves around the TMJ have to compensate to hold the jaw in the correct position. This causes muscle fatigue and pain signals. Tired muscles may jerk during sleep, and as a result, teeth grinding and clenching can occur. This condition is called bruxism. TMJ initiates a vicious cycle of tooth wear, and pain can range from mild to severe.
As a young adult you may not have understood or appreciated the power of a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, as people age many find they have a more difficult time falling to sleep and often an even harder time feeling rested in the morning. This can cause them to long for the days when sleep came easy and left them feeling refreshed, but many don’t know what, if anything, can be done to improve their sleep. Fewer still realize that their dentist might be able to help. By treating the symptoms of TMJ and bruxism, and often sleep apnea, your dentist might be able to help you get a more effective night’s sleep, so you can wake feeling like your younger self again.
What’s TMJ Have to Do With Rest?
TMJ, while often associated with “lock jaw” and other jaw pains, can also affect a person’s ability to sleep well and stay focused during the day. In fact, some of the most common symptoms of TMJ are headaches, dizziness and pain through the neck and shoulders. TMJ can also cause or worsen sleep apnea, which can be a dangerous sleeping disorder.
In some cases TMJ is caused by nighttime teeth grinding, known as bruxism, which can make restful sleep even more difficult. And because bruxism involves grinding the teeth only at night, it can make the condition even harder to diagnose and treat, as many patients don’t realize there is a problem until a significant other notices the noise of the teeth grinding, or if they start to develop wear along the teeth’s edges.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of TMJ, or know that you’ve struggled with bruxism in the past, sometimes a simple night guard is enough to correct the problem. By custom fitting a tray for you, much like a mouth guard used during many sports, your dentist might be able to position your jaw in a more natural, comfortable position, allowing you to eliminate the teeth grinding and symptoms that often accompany it.
If this doesn’t work, there are alternative, more extensive treatments that might include orthodontic treatment or certain injections that can help to relax the jaw muscles.
While surgery may be necessary, many people find that non-invasive splint therapy alleviates TMJ disorder. Dr. Fondreist has studied TMJ disorder, as well as bruxism, and he offers a number of non-surgical treatment options. Various splints, or mouth pieces, are available to correct jaw misalignment so that muscles and nerves relax, pain stops, and bruxism ceases. Wearing an oral appliance at night is sufficient for many patients, but some also wear it during the day. People respond differently to this treatment. For some, muscles reprogram over time, the jaws reestablish proper alignment, and treatment can end. Others wear their appliance indefinitely.
Learn more about the best treatment for chronic headaches and non-restful sleep
In some cases, wear on back teeth is the cause of jaw misalignment. Restoring the affected teeth with crowns can solve the issue. Physical therapy and habit changes (no gum chewing, for instance) can also help alleviate TMJ disorder.
Call Dr. Fondriest at Lake Forest Dental for your TMJ evaluation and consultation.