Do you regularly wake up with headaches, toothaches, or jaw pain? You could be grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep, and it could be causing a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Nighttime grinding, or sleep bruxism, affects about 1 in 10 American adults. If you have it, you involuntarily clench or grind your teeth during sleep. And if it’s left untreated, it can lead to a variety of health issues, including a TMJ disorder: A painful condition that affects your jaw joint and surrounding muscles.
Walied Touni, DDS, MSD, and our team at Touni Orthodontics can help. We specialize in diagnosing and treating TMJ pain in Sunnyvale, California. If you’re tired of dealing with jaw discomfort, it’s time to find out more about the connection between nighttime grinding and TMJ disorders.
How nighttime grinding leads to TMJ pain
Your TMJ is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. You have one TMJ on either side of your face, and you use them both every time you move your jaw to eat, talk, and make facial expressions.
Some of the most common symptoms of a TMJ disorder are:
- Jaw pain
- Clicking or popping sounds when opening your mouth
- Difficulty chewing or speaking
- Ear aches
- Neck pain
The exact relationship between nighttime grinding and TMJ disorders isn’t fully understood, but there is a strong connection between these two conditions.
When you involuntarily grind or clench your teeth, it puts excessive pressure on your TMJ and the muscles surrounding your jaw. Bruxism can happen while you’re asleep or during the day — in fact, as many as one-third of adults suffer bruxism during their waking hours.
One possibility is that constant pressure from clenching and grinding damages your TMJ, leading to inflammation and pain. Another possibility is that the excessive muscle tension caused by bruxism puts pressure on your TMJ, leading to pain and dysfunction.
Regardless of the exact cause, people who grind their teeth at night are much more likely to develop TMJ symptoms than those who do not. The good news is that treating your bruxism can alleviate your TMJ symptoms too.
What to do about TMJ pain
If you suffer from nighttime grinding, don’t ignore your symptoms. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Touni and our team to find out if you have bruxism, so you can start treatment and prevent complications like TMJ disorders.
We evaluate your jaw, your teeth, and your symptoms. Then, we recommend treatments to help reduce the frequency and severity of your bruxism. Some of the most common bruxism treatments include wearing a nightguard, practicing stress-reduction techniques, or taking muscle relaxants.
If you have developed a TMJ disorder, we can recommend treatment to manage inflammation and pain. A few options may include oral pain medication, physical therapy, or corticosteroid injections.
Lifestyle changes can also help prevent nighttime grinding and TMJ disorders. Avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, as these substances can increase muscle tension and exacerbate bruxism.
It’s also important to maintain good sleep hygiene by establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding screens before bedtime, and creating a calm and relaxing sleep environment.
There’s no denying that nighttime grinding and TMJ disorders are closely connected — and they can cause significant pain and dysfunction. Fortunately, both conditions are treatable.
Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Touni by calling our office or requesting an appointment online today.