Nothing spoils a day like waking up with a terrible headache. Everything just seems to spiral downwards when you have to pop painkillers first thing in the morning, before even getting to your coffee. While most of these headaches may seem insignificant, you shouldn’t ignore them at any cost. Of course, it can be disturbed sleep at play or your migraine flaring up, but it may also be a sign that you have TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction) disorder.
How to Recognize TMJ disorder
You can get morning headaches for numerous reasons. However, there are certain signs that point towards TMJ Disease which you should look out for. Some include:
- Constant jaw pain that lasts the whole day
- Frequent neck pain of varying intensities
- Sore jaw or tenderness in the jaw area as soon as you wake up in the morning
- Jaw starts hurting when you eat or as soon as you finish eating
- Frequent earaches
- Shoulders start hurting without any physical activity or putting any physical stress on them
If you recognize these patterns as a regular occurrence, you immediately need to get TMJ pain treatment.
Bruxism and TMJ: How Are They Different
Bruxism, commonly known as grinding of teeth, is an oral disorder when you involuntarily clench your jaw or grind your teeth. It occurs when you constantly bite your teeth down or against each other or drag your teeth back and forth against one another. In most cases, people don’t even realize they are doing this until someone points it out to them.
Bruxism and TMJ are two different things but they can be related to each other. If you have chronic bruxism, it can be the cause of TMJ or contrarily, it could be a result of TMJ disorder. In many cases, both are mutually exclusive where bruxism occurs separately from TMJ, and it is a standalone problem. A thorough check-up by a dentist can help in identifying TMJ symptoms and treatment.
Bruxism and its Effect on TMJ Disorder
Even though bruxism isn’t always related to TMJ, it can aggravate the existing TMJ condition. When you constantly or excessively grind your teeth, it puts severe stress or tension on the jaw. This results in overworked temporomandibular joint that may develop the TMJ problem or worsen it. By exhausting your jaws and damaging it through bruxism, you strain your jaw muscles which causes poor functioning. If you do not treat bruxism, it will just elevate every TMJ syndrome and leave you in a lot of pain. One of the first steps of treating TMJ is recognizing bruxism and minimizing its effects.
Treating Bruxism and TMJ disorder
Visiting your dentist will confirm the diagnosis of bruxism, TMJ disorder or both. This will help in creating a proper TMJ disorder treatment plan for you. In most cases, you tend to grind your teeth in your sleep. This is usually treated by using a mouth guard that is custom molded to fit your teeth. It prevents you from grinding the teeth at night and thus helps in reducing pressure on the jaw. It even helps in lessening further damage to the teeth.
Other orthodontic devices can also be used for the treatment. Repositioning splints help reduce the pain by changing the position or your jaw, and stabilizing splints prevent you from grinding your teeth. Your dentist may even alter your bite using orthotics or restorations such as veneers, bonding or tooth contouring, to change the alignment of TMJ and subsequently reduce stress on the joint. Your dentist is the best person to recommend the right treatment to relieve you of the pain. Do not try to fix it on your own since it may worsen the condition than it already is.
So, if you think you are suffering from bruxism or TMJ disorder or wake up with another terrible headache, pick up that phone and make an appointment with Joshua Hong DDS today. Along with TMJ disorder treatment, we will also help in preventing tooth damage caused by the grinding, such as fracture, enamel erosion and sensitivity.
This article is written by Shen Chao, who is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Smile Clinic. While working for the Smile Clinic, he’s gained first hand experiences into the questions and concerns that dental patients have. He has been writing to inform people about various dental topics to help his readers improve their oral health. When he’s not working, you can find him on a hiking trail with his dog or having a Sunday cook-out with friends.