Teeth Clenching & Grinding
Are you plagued by headaches and migraines? Does your jaw pop as you chew your steak and potatoes at dinner? Such symptoms could stem from improper position of your jaw joints, or TMJ. You may have heard of TMJ or TMD. This acronym stands for temporomandibular joint disorder – a term that describes the condition of improperly aligned jaw joints.
Causes for TMJ Pain
Our TMJs are surrounded by a web of muscles and nerves. When they work well, nerves and muscles allow the lower jaw to move up, down, right, and left. However, the TMJs can become misaligned. Clenching and grinding your teeth, a habit called bruxism, can cause TMJ disorder. Stress can trigger the condition, as well. Sometimes, injury or heredity is the cause of TMJ pain. As muscles struggle to hold the jaw in proper position, they become fatigued. Nerves send pain signals to the brain, and you may feel aches in your head, neck, mouth, and jaw. Discomfort can also occur in the low back, shoulders, and fingers and toes may tingle.
TMJ Causes & Treatment Options
To alleviate pain, the TMJs must be repositioned. This may sound invasive, but in most cases, an oral appliance does the job quite well. At your visit, Dr. Rao can determine if TMJ disorder is the source of your pain. If she determines that your jaw joints are misaligned, she may suggest an oral appliance that will not only hold your jaw in correct position, but will also prevent clenching and grinding your teeth (bruxism). Some people’s jaw muscles reprogram after wearing the oral appliance for an undetermined period of time, while others must wear the appliance indefinitely. Repositioning your jaw, if only while you sleep, will allow your muscles and nerves to relax.
In some cases, teeth grinding wears down back teeth, so a person’s bite is altered. With this condition, called malocclusion, upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly. The jaw joints cannot sit in proper position, then. If your bite is worn down, Dr. Rao may recommend building up the back teeth to restore proper occlusion. Likewise, crooked teeth can lead to malocclusion. Orthodontic treatment may be necessary to correct this condition.
Physical therapy in the form of stress relief exercises may help. Also, ending habits like chewing gum, biting pens or fingernails, and chewing ice can relieve TMJ stress.
To reserve your dental checkup, consultation, or second-opinion visit, call 214-522-3110 today. Located in Highland Park, Dr. Rao’s Dallas dentist office serves families from the SMU area, Katy Trail, Park Cities, and surrounding communities. Visit our blog and Facebook page to learn more about Dr. Rao and her team, and join the conversation with our team and patients.