Many people grind and clench their teeth, sometimes without even realizing what they are doing. These actions can be detrimental to our teeth and jaw joint. The temporomandibular joint or TMJ, connects your jawbone to your skull. Temporomandibular joint disorder can show up as jaw joint pain or stiffness, shoulder pain and upper back pain. Most people notice these issues upon waking in the morning or while eating. The most common symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in your jaw or face when you yawn, speak or chew
- A feeling of your jaw getting stuck or locking when opening wide
- Clicking or popping in your jaw joint when chewing or speaking
- Headaches, neckaches, earaches, aching teeth or broken teeth
Grinding or clenching of the teeth, also known as bruxism can also damage to the structure of your teeth by wearing away at your enamel and allowing the inner tooth structure known as dentin to be exposed. Dentin is softer and more prone to cavities than enamel. Exposed dentin can also lead increased sensitivity to hot and cold.
If you think you may be suffering from TMD or you know you are grinding and clenching your teeth, you may benefit from wearing a bite splint. A bite splint is a custom made mouth piece that fits over your teeth and provides a barrier to protect those precious teeth. Wearing a bite splint will also lighten the tension in the TMJ and cushion the jaw muscles and help them relax.