You wake up and stumble into the bathroom. You turn on the light and regret it immediately. You woke up — again — with a headache, so you need the light to find some ibuprofen or aspirin.
These morning headaches are happening more and more frequently it seems. Eating breakfast is more difficult, too. If you chew anything harder than light toast, your jaw hurts almost until you get to work. Most mornings, you stick with coffee and avoid eating anything.
The morning headaches and jaw pains shouldn’t be ignored. They could be symptoms of a TMJ disorder, and if they are, then our dentists in Charlotte, NC could help.
Keep reading to learn more about TMJ’s causes, symptoms, and treatments at McNulty & Dancausse General Dentistry. When you are finished, call 704-766-8662 or contact us online if you want to learn more about how we could help you or someone you love.
The Causes Of TMJ Disorders
We wish we could tell you that TMJ problems are simple, that they have one cause. The reality is that TMJ disorders can be complex.
Your temporomandibular joints are ball-and-socket joints that allow you to open and close your mouth. You can develop TMJ problems for a variety of reasons. Injuries and illnesses are two common contributors to TMJ issues. Arthritis can be a problem, too.
If the alignment of your teeth is off, that can put added stress on one or both of these joints.
But the factor that we can help with the most is teeth grinding. You may be among the tens of millions of Americans who grind or clench your teeth while you sleep. (That could explain why you frequently experience your symptoms in the morning.)
Many times, this kind of clenching and grinding is a response to stress. You may catch yourself doing this when you are awake as well such as when your boss makes a last-minute change to a project you’ve been working on or when you and your spouse are having a disagreement.
The clenching and grinding can put double or triple the pressure of a normal bite on your jaw. That can cause wear and tear to your teeth, and it puts added strain on the muscles and ligaments around your TMJ.
One or more of these causes could be factors in your particular TMJ troubles.
The Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Just as multiple factors can contribute to TMJ disorders, how you experience this condition can vary from day to day and person to person.
We have already mentioned two of the most common symptoms:
▸ Frequent headaches (including migraines)
▸ Frequent jaw pain
You may experience one or both of these symptoms. You have neither of these problems, or you might have them in combination with other symptoms, such as:
▸ Jaw soreness during or after meals
▸ Facial pains or soreness
▸ Neck pain
▸ Shoulder and upper back pain
▸ Feeling like your jaw is stuck
▸ Problems completely opening or closing your jaw
Most people will experience TMJ problems at one time or another. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a TMJ disorder, however. If your symptoms occur often and don’t seem to be improving in spite of your relief efforts, that’s when you should plan a visit to McNulty & Dancausse General Dentistry.
Treating TMJ Disorders
What should you do about your TMJ troubles? It depends on their severity and the causes of your particular problems.
If you are experiencing mild, infrequent symptoms, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever might help. For jaw pain, a cold pack can alleviate pain, too. For jaw mobility problems, warm, moist heat can help.
If you have pain from eating, then you can try sticking to softer foods for a few days. If stress is a factor, then you may want to talk to a therapist, exercise, or learn some relaxation techniques.
If your troubles persist, we can examine your mouth to see if an alignment issue or teeth grinding are part of your problem. If so, we can work with a dental lab to create a special mouthguard that you can wear while you sleep. This will prevent you from grinding your teeth together. It also can keep your jaw in a relaxed position so you put less pressure on your jaw and facial muscles while you sleep.
Many patients have told us this has made their daily lives less painful. If you believe our Charlotte, NC dentists could help you, please set up a consultation soon. Contact us online or call 704-766-8662 today.