Some people experience pain and tension in their facial regions after waking up. Sleep is supposed to rejuvenate your mind and body after a long day of work or school. Unfortunately, some people wake up with even more tension and pain. Headaches, dizziness, earaches, and jaw pain experienced immediately after waking are often closely associated with bruxism, or habitual teeth-grinding, which usually occurs while you’re sleeping. Bruxism varies in severity, depending on each patient and the underlying cause of the condition, and proper diagnosis is paramount for effective treatment. If you find yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, or experiencing sore and achy face and jaw muscles when you wake up, then you might be suffering from bruxism.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a phenomenon that typically occurs at night, like snoring, but can also occur during the day. People experiencing it in the daytime may find themselves clenching their teeth for no apparent reason. It’s often because of stress, and their jaw muscles are tense along with the other muscles in their bodies. It is difficult to diagnose yourself with bruxism, especially if you exhibit it while sleeping. If you sleep with a loved one, then he or she may hear the noise of teeth-grinding, and can alert you to the condition before serious damage occurs.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Though you will need a professional assessment to properly diagnose bruxism, there are a few warning signs that could indicate you grind your teeth. For example, side effects can include:
- Small chips or cracks in the teeth
- Jaw pain
- Tooth erosion
- Limited jaw movement
- Dental sensitivity
- Sore spots on the inside of your cheeks
Bruxism Causes Inflammation Around the TMJ
TMJs, or temporomandibular joints, are located at the temporal bones in front of each ear, and connect your lower jaw to your skull. The joints allow your jaw to move up-and-down and side-to-side when you eat and speak.
Habitually clenching your teeth places unnecessary tension on the TMJs, causing the surrounding muscles to tense up and swell. To put it in perspective, think of your calf muscles during swimming. The calf muscles (located below your knees, on the back side) will sometimes tense up and cramp after a long day of swimming. They do this because the muscles were overworked when propelling your body through the water. Similarly, the excessive grinding of bruxism will overwork the muscles surrounding your TMJs, and can cause soreness and inflammation from the strain. This condition, knows as TMJ disorder, will be discussed further in the section below.
TMJ disorder, commonly referred to as TMD, can be one of many different conditions that cause damage to your jaw’s joints. The distress can aggravate your jaw’s nerve and lead to chronic headaches, earaches, neck and back pain, and difficulty opening and closing your mouth. Besides excessive stress and bite imbalances, like crooked teeth, bruxism is one of the most prominent instigators and symptoms of TMJ disorder.
Detrimental Effects of Chronic Bruxism
If bruxism is left untreated, the constant grinding could lead to severe complications. The friction can cause dental damages such as worn, cracked, fractured, and broken teeth. The damage can expose your teeth’s vulnerable tissues to oral bacteria, increasing your risk of developing internal tooth infections (tooth decay).
Causes of Bruxism
Although doctors do not completely understand what causes bruxism, they often link it with psychological and physical instances. Stress and anxiety can cause the muscles in your body to remain tense, including those in your face and jaw. Additionally, teeth misalignment can make your bite uncomfortable when at rest, and your teeth can grind together as your jaw shifts to find a more comfortable position. In some instances, bruxism can even be related to certain sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, one in four individuals diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea also grind their teeth – and this happens more often in male patients.
Because of the diversity of its possible causes, bruxism treatment is different for everyone, and relies on an accurate diagnosis to determine its source. If you experience soreness due to involuntary grinding and clenching, then Dr. Fondriest can custom-design a night guard to help you find relief and protect your teeth by preventing them from rubbing together while you sleep.
Custom oral appliances work extremely well in most cases. However, patients who do not find sufficient relief from this type of device may explore other treatments, including:
- Orthodontics: If your bruxism is due to crooked, overlapped, crowded, or gapped teeth, Dr. Fondriest may recommend orthodontic treatment. Traditional braces or clear aligner trays can move the teeth into their proper positions and correct your bite. If this option is suggested for you, we will refer you to a trusted orthodontist.
- Tooth replacement: If missing teeth are the cause of your issues, then replacing them can help restore your bite. Dental bridges and dentures can achieve this. However, dental implants are an excellent way to restore your bite and preserve your oral health.
- Dental crowns: If you already have dental damage due to bruxism, such as worn down enamel, dental crowns can restore your teeth to their original sizes. This can reduce the urge to grind or clench the teeth. However, if you choose dental crowns as a treatment option, we will likely recommend a custom guard to protect your investment.
- Corrective jaw surgery: In severe cases, corrective jaw surgery may be the only viable long-term option for you. Patients who require this procedure will be referred to an experienced oral surgeon in the area.
About Your Lake Forest Dentist:
Aside from providing expert general, and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs.To schedule your next consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.