The TMJs: Strong but Sensitive
Pain in the joint of the lower jaw to the side of the head in front of the ear is collectively called TMJ condition. Symptoms of TMJ include:
- Soreness of the muscles and pain upon opening the mouth
- Generalized pain of the teeth or jaw
- Popping or clicking sounds when opening the mouth
- Ringing in the ear
The TMJs have to withstand constant use to help us eat, speak, laugh, and yawn. However, when excessive pressure or movement places too much stress on the TMJs or if they are injured, serious problems could erupt.
Bruxism: Night Time Teeth Grinding
TMJ disorder is usually caused by the nighttime grinding or clenching of the teeth referred to as bruxism. Since bruxism episodes generally happen at night, while the sufferer is sleeping, many people are unaware of the fact they have a problem. In most cases, they wake up with soreness or pain in the jaws. Bruxism can have potentially serious effects, including the chronic pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulders associated with TMJ as well as tooth sensitivity and worn down enamel.
Treatment Options for TMJ Pain and Teeth Grinding
The most common treatment is a construction of a night guard which is worn mainly during sleep. It does not allow the teeth to grind and thus discomfort is minimized or eliminated in most cases. Other treatment may require the use of anti-inflammatory medications. In rare cases, referral to a TMJ specialist may be needed. In addition, lifestyle changes could address the causes of bruxism and TMJ. Since stress and anxiety often prompt the development of bruxism, stress-relieving techniques such as regular exercise, meditation, and cutting down on your caffeine intake could mitigate the problem.