Do you wake up with a sore jaw? You may be clenching your teeth while you sleep. This is a common symptom of TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder. It is a condition that affects the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles. While most people focus on pain and headaches with TMJ, there are other issues that you may encounter. With TMJ, you may also experience dental erosion over time.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. This joint allows you to perform essential actions like chewing, talking, and even yawning. TMJ disorder occurs when this joint and the surrounding muscles do not function as they should. It can create a series of issues for your health
Common Symptoms of TMJ
TMJ disorder can manifest through various symptoms, including:
- Jaw pain or tenderness
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- Clicking or popping sounds when you move your jaw
- Facial pain
While you may be more familiar with these symptoms, the impact on your dental health often receives less attention.
Bruxism occurs when you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, often unconsciously. Many with TMJ disorder also suffer from bruxism. Excessive pressure on teeth during grinding and clenching can lead to dental erosion.
Dental erosion is the gradual wearing away of tooth enamel–the hard, protective outer layer of your teeth. When enamel erodes, teeth become more susceptible to cavities, tooth sensitivity, and other dental problems. The continual grinding and clenching associated with bruxism can cause enamel to weaken and wear down.
Unfortunately, this can increase your risk of many dental issues.
Increased Risk of Cavities
With weakened enamel, your teeth become more vulnerable to cavities. The protective barrier that enamel provides against harmful bacteria is compromised. As a result, this allows bacteria to penetrate the inner layers of your teeth.
Eroded enamel often results in increased tooth sensitivity. Hot and cold temperatures, as well as sweet and acidic foods, can cause discomfort and pain. This can affect your ability to enjoy your favorite foods and beverages.
The constant force exerted on your teeth during bruxism can lead to cracks or fractures. Fractured teeth can be painful and require dental treatment, such as fillings or crowns, to restore their functionality and appearance.
Bruxism can also lead to gum recession. As the gums recede, they expose the tooth roots, which are not as well protected as the enamel. This can lead to further sensitivity and an increased risk of decay in the root surfaces.
Luckily, there are many ways your dentist can help protect your teeth.
Custom-made mouthguards are a common way to manage bruxism associated with TMJ. These devices cushion the teeth and minimize the effects of grinding and clenching. Ultimately, this helps reduce dental erosion.
Stress is often a major factor in TMJ and bruxism. Learning stress management techniques can help reduce the frequency and intensity of grinding and clenching. For example, you can try yoga or meditation.