The first time I woke up with awful jaw pain, I thought that I had a sinus infection. It might seem unrelated, but the pain radiated through my entire mouth, and seemed worst on my upper back teeth. I had a cold recently and, from past experience, assumed that the inflamed sinuses were causing pain in my teeth. However, even weeks after my cold symptoms subsided, my teeth were in pain every morning when I woke up. Has this ever happened to you? Does it happen often? You might clench or grind your teeth at night and not even know it.
Symptoms of Clenching and Grinding
Clenching your teeth at night, as well as grinding them, is called Bruxism. Some of the telltale symptoms of Bruxism such as the noises associated with grinding, and worn down teeth are more applicable to people who grind. Here are some of the symptoms associated with both clenching and grinding, according to the National Institute of Health:
- Jaw pain or muscle tightness
- Teeth sensitivity
- Anxiety, stress or tension
If you suspect that any of these symptoms might be associated with Bruxism, you should visit your dentist.
What Causes Bruxism?
Although there is not one proven cause for Bruxism, there are both physical and mental suggested causes. If you have a high amount of anxiety, stress, tension or have suppressed anger or frustration, it could be causing your clenching or grinding. Some people begin grinding or clenching their teeth during periods of extreme stress. Physical causes may include misaligned teeth or sleep disorders.
How Can I Stop?
After I discussed my symptoms with my dentist, he diagnosed my night clenching, and recommended a guard to wear at night. At another appointment, he took molds of my bottom teeth and sent them away to the company that makes the guards. When the finished night guard arrived at the dentist’s office, he had me try it to see how it felt. He even shaved down the height of certain parts when I told him it was uncomfortable. After an awkward adjustment period that included a lot of drooling, I got accustomed to my mouth guard. It only took one night with it in to realize the difference. My jaw didn’t hurt when I woke up for the first time in forever. I would recommend a night guard from my personal experience, but it’s not perfect for everyone. Here are some other recommended treatment options for Bruxism:
- Applying warmth or cold to the jaw muscles
- Relax your facial muscles, and try specific facial and jaw stretching exercises
- Reduce your level of stress
Overview of Bruxism by the National Institute of Health
Causes of Bruxism, from Mayo Clinic