Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ disorder) manifests as a distressing pain in the jaw joint, impacting daily activities like talking, eating, and drinking. The frequent use of the jaw joint in everyday life distinguishes this pain as more than a nuisance. Individuals unfamiliar with TMJ disorder may find sudden flare-ups alarming, compounding anxiety alongside joint pain. Typically, excessive strain on the jaw joints and the muscle group governing activities like chewing, swallowing, and speech is the primary cause of TMJ disorder or flare-ups.
Several factors contribute to TMJ disorder, including unrestrained chewing gum use, overeating, and bruxism (nighttime teeth grinding). If jaw pain arises from chewing gum, reducing its consumption usually relieves pain within a few days. Similarly, moderating eating habits, especially avoiding hard foods after the initial signs of pain, can alleviate discomfort. However, the timeline for addressing bruxism, mainly grinding teeth during sleep, could be more complex.
Bruxism poses various issues for dental health, such as decay, rapid tooth wear, and damage to bridges and crowns. Beyond these apparent problems, constant pressure on the jawline can cause less obvious but significant damage to the joints. While the jaw joints are robust, they have their limitations. People often remain unaware of nighttime grinding unless a partner notices, or they develop TMJ symptoms. Treating bruxism involves addressing its root causes, commonly linked to stress and anxiety. Seeking therapy, counseling, medication, or meditation can help manage stress, with the potential for bruxism to subside as mental health improves. Unfortunately, the damage may persist even after the underlying cause gets addressed.
TMJ disorder frequently results from untreated bruxism, with prolonged neglect exacerbating strain and potential damage to the jaw joints. During a TMJ disorder flare-up, individuals may experience pain in the jaw, earaches, toothaches, headaches, facial swelling, and limited jaw movement. Some may even suffer from lockjaw and neck/shoulder pain. It is not uncommon for individuals to manage persistent pain with over-the-counter painkillers without addressing the underlying issue, i.e., bruxism.
There are several dental approaches available to address or prevent nocturnal teeth grinding. Dental professionals can assist in finding a suitable mouthguard designed to alleviate issues associated with bruxism. These guards, made of hard or soft materials, are akin to sports mouthguards but intended for extended use. In more severe cases, dental surgery may be necessary to repair damaged teeth or crowns if bruxism has been unchecked for an extended period.
Rather than solely relying on dental professionals for corrective measures, you can take proactive steps to address the issue independently. Since bruxism is usually linked to anxiety, consider exploring various stress and anxiety management techniques. Consulting with a licensed therapist or counselor may yield benefits beyond addressing teeth grinding. Alternatively, you could train your body to refrain from grinding your teeth during sleep. Consult a dentist or orthodontist for guidance on the appropriate mouth and jaw positions to practice before bedtime. Additionally, there are medications available, such as muscle relaxants and anxiety or stress medications, that can help mitigate grinding issues. However, discussing these options with your primary healthcare provider before pursuing any specific route is crucial.
Savannah Dental Solutions is a top name among dentists in the Savannah area, known for focusing on the dental needs of clients of all ages. Conveniently located in the Medical Arts Center, their range of services is unrivaled in Chatham County.