Do you grind your teeth at night or find yourself clenching? If you do it chronically, it can cause earaches, chronic TMJ 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.
How do the muscles of the jaw cause chronic TMJ 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 the 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.
Non-restful sleep can be related to chronic TMJ headaches
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 in 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.
What are TMJ Disorder’s Other Symptoms?
There are several conditions that can be considered TMJ disorder, such as damaged joints, misaligned joint disks, arthritis, and more. In most cases, however, the symptoms of TMJ disorder remain the same, and can include:
- Popping and clicking sensations when you open and close your mouth
- Painful or tender muscles in the jaw, face, and temporal bones
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Earaches and ringing in one or both ears (also known as tinnitus)
- Difficulty biting and chewing
- Locked jaw joints
- Chronic tension headaches and migraines
- Restricted jaw movement
- Headaches or migraines
- Toothaches, cold sensitivity, and worn down teeth
- Fractured or broken tooth
- And more
Treatment for TMJ Disorder
Dealing with bruxism
If you’re experiencing headaches or TMJ pain, 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.
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.
Alternative treatments for chronic TMJ headaches
If this doesn’t work, there are alternative, more extensive treatments that might include:
- Orthodontic treatment
- Botox injections that can help to relax the jaw muscles
- Muscle relaxants
- Relaxation techniques
- Physical therapy
- Making habit changes by not chewing gum and hard foods
- Correcting jaw misalignment from bruxism wear on back teeth. Restoring the affected teeth with crowns can solve the issue.
- Surgical flushing of jaw joint capsules
While surgery may be necessary, many people find that non-invasive splint therapy alleviates chronic TMJ headaches most of the time. Dr. Fondriest has studied treating temporomandibular joint disorder, and facial pain, and he offers a number of non-surgical treatment options.
Learn more about the best treatment for chronic TMJ headaches and non-restful sleep
Do you experience chronic TMJ headaches? What about frequent jaw or face pain? If so, you could be suffering from a medical disorder that pains over 10 million people in the United States, alone. Like tooth decay and gum disease, jaw dysfunctions can also disrupt your good oral health, and place other elements of your smile at risk, too.
Treating TMJ is best done conservatively. Before doing braces, significant dentistry, or surgical procedures, it is best to try simple reversible diagnostic procedures first. The best reversible treatment is wearing a night guard. The wear that occurs on the night guard will show on the plastic surface. The wear facets on the plastic guard show the dentist what you are doing at night. It tells us how you grind and how much you grind.
Call Dr. Fondriest at Lake Forest Dental Arts for your TMJ evaluation and consultation.