Are you and your teeth feeling the stress of 2020? Is it making your jaw or muscles sore?
This year we have seen a lot of wild things happening. Global pandemic of COVID19, earthquake in Utah not far from Herriman, extreme winds in Northern Utah, riots, fires, multiple hurricanes and by the way there is a presidential election too. I have felt the stress at times too making me more tired and sore.
Many people suffer from pain in their jaw joint and muscles. This issue is usually stress related and is also closely associated with worn or broken teeth. I have seen a big increase in the amount of people coming in with broken teeth, sore or clicking jaw, and tension headaches.
Stress Reduction Techniques
If the root cause of all of these problems is stress then how can we treat it? I would first address the root cause: Stress. Exercise, enjoying the outdoors, prayer, meditation, yoga, massage, or a good funny movie are all ways that may be helpful to you to manage stress. I would consider using any of these options as the first line therapy for stress reduction especially exercise. There are other treatments we can use for sore jaw and jaw muscles.
Sore Jaw Treatments
Soft Diet: Going on a temporary soft diet by avoiding chewing gum, beef jerky, big raw vegetables like big carrots, hard nuts, frozen candy bars, or avoiding other very chewy foods that require a lot of force to break down is a good idea. Do this soft diet while your jaw is hurting from the stress and clenching. Don't chew gum ever if you are prone to getting a sore jaw.
Medications: Sometimes when you are in pain it causes you more stress which causes you to clench your teeth even more which then causes you more pain and this cycle will continue until you break the cycle with something. Taking ibuprofen temporarily for a day or two can also help break the cycle of pain and stress. There are also other medications like muscle relaxants or anti anxiety drugs but these have much worse side effects or could be addictive and require prescriptions. Try the ibuprofen and other techniques first.
Bite Guards: A bite guard, also known as a TMJ splint can help position your jaw in a way that helps the muscles in your jaw relax. Sometimes using any type of bite guard (cheap or expensive) between your teeth can help. There are many styles of bite appliances and some work better than others but for some people having any type of bite guard makes a big difference. Some people will continue to clench into the guard still causing soreness. Some people cannot tolerate a bite guard. Bite guards can be worn during the day or night but most are typically worn at night. Some people clench or grind there teeth at night because of stress or sometimes it can be related to obstructive sleep apnea. If
Behavior modification: If you are having pain in your teeth, jaw, and jaw muscles from clenching and or grinding your teeth you should pay attention to when it is happening. Is it only occurring while you are sleeping or during the day? Is it happening while at work or while commuting? Pay attention and make a mental note of when it happens as this will change the treatment strategy. If you are clenching during the day you can use your own willpower to stop the clenching habit. Here is the great secret to eliminating jaw pain: YOU SHOULD NEVER LET YOUR TEETH TOUCH UNLESS YOU ARE EATING. You should always maintain a very small space (a few millimetres or 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch) between your teeth. Occasionally your teeth will touch on accident or when you are speaking or eating but that should be it! WHY? Because when your teeth touch your jaw muscles and jaw joint are not in their most relaxed position--you are straining the muscles and jaw joint and teeth themselves. Also your brain has a reflex that will want to bite, grind, chew, clench, and put pressure down on your teeth without even thinking about it. Almost like you don't have to think about it when you breathe. Many people (myself included) have taken out our stress on our teeth by biting down chronically into your teeth and even if you don't grind your teeth you may just be putting too much pressure on your jaw joint and jaw muscles by biting down too often and too hard. Pay attention and don't let your teeth touch during the day when you can consciously control it. At night you may need to wear a bite guard if you are clenching at night. Also if your sleeping on your pillow a certain way it could put strain on your jaw. But don't forget during the day to keep your teeth apart: "Teeth apart and lips closed" is usually the ideal relaxed position.
We have seen an increase in broken teeth related to clenching and grinding. We have many techniques to fix broken teeth depending on the severity of the break. Sometimes a tiny fracture can just be smoothed or polished to make it less sharp. Other times a filling or crown may be required. We are so lucky to live in an age with amazing dental materials that have dramatically improved over the years. Zirconia crowns are very strong and nice looking making a very good way to fix a broken tooth. Come see us at Copper Mountain Dental in Herriman, Utah if you need a broken tooth fixed. Follow some of the strategies I listed above to help treat your sore jaw and reduce the likelihood further damage to your teeth. Also we can make a bite guard for you if you are clenching your teeth and are not able to control it without the help of having something covering your teeth. We are here to help--if you need a Herriman Dentist give us a call. Contact us if you would like to schedule an appointment.