We all grind our teeth or clench our jaws from time to time. However, when that grinding becomes a chronic, frequent issue, it’s a condition we call bruxism, the side effects of which are pretty serious.
As a leading provider of night guards for TMJ pain, we discuss why you clench your jaw and how to stop doing it:
Why do you clench your jaw?
Labeled as a potentially fatal bacterial infection, tetanus produces toxins that cause trouble swallowing and lead to painful muscle contractions in the jaw, neck, and abdomen. If you suspect you may have tetanus, you should seek medical assistance immediately.
Like any other muscle or joint in your body, excessive use will cause discomfort/pain and result in jaw tightness.
RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis)
This autoimmune inflammatory disorder affects joints and muscles throughout the body and includes inflammation of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint). Inflammation of the jaw joint can make it painful or challenging to open your mouth and may damage the joint and nearby tissues. Other symptoms of RA comprise:
- Bumps under the skin of joints
- Jaw tightness
- Joint stiffness, inflammation, and pain
Bruxism (Teeth clenching/grinding)
There can be many reasons why you might be grinding your teeth, including sleep disorders, depression, tension/frustration, anger, anxiety, and stress. Also, it can be related to heavy consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Generally, teeth grinding or bruxism is found in people who use caffeine and recreational drugs, drink alcohol, smoke regularly, have some form of sleep apnea, and snore. Following are some symptoms of bruxism:
- Experience pain or tooth sensitivity when drinking or eating hot/cold foods
- Back teeth appear either flattened or as if they have small potholes on them
- Wake up with sore facial muscles, jaw pain, or headache
Stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety are two common causes of jaw clenching and muscle tension. When stressed, people may grind their teeth or clench their jaw in their sleep or during the day without even noticing. Over time, this may tighten up facial muscles or cause serious dental issues like wear, cracks, and loss of a tooth. Other signs of stress consist of:
- Tension in the neck and shoulder muscles
- Clenching of the fist
TMJ or TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorders)
Generally, TMD is caused by a temporomandibular joint dysfunction, which triggers jaw joint pain. This joint is actually the one that allows you the range of motion required to speak, yawn, and chew food. Symptoms of TMD may include:
- Jaw popping and persistent headaches
- Difficulty chewing or opening the jaw
- Pain or tenderness in the neck, ear, face, or jaw
How to stop clenching your jaw?
Change your diet
Start eating softer foods to reduce muscle soreness and jaw tightness. This puts less pressure on the jaw, giving it enough time to heal. Soft foods include avocados, smoothies, porridge, yogurt, tofu, etc.
Massage your jaw to reduce muscle tightness and increase blood flow. Open your mouth and gently rub the muscles next to your ears in a circular motion. Do this several times a day.
Wear a nightguard
Custom-made night guards are designed to prevent damage sustained from jaw clenching or teeth grinding by safeguarding your teeth in your sleep. Based on your condition’s cause, you may need a mouth guard recommended by a dentist, so consulting with your dentist first is highly recommended.
Exercises to relax the facial and jaw muscles
To increase the range of motion and relieve tightness in the jaw, it’s important to do facial exercises and jaw joint stretches. Here are some exercises you can do:
- Smile stretch: Look at yourself in the mirror and smile as wide as you can without feeling pain or tightness. While smiling, gently open your jaw a little, inhale and exhale deeply. Repeat this process around eight to ten times. With this exercise, you can eliminate stress in the neck, jaw, and facial muscles.
- Manual jaw opening: Warm up first by opening and closing your mouth several times. Then place your fingers on the top of your front bottom teeth and pull down slowly until you feel a slight discomfort. Hold this position for half a minute and release your jaw back to the starting position. Repeat this stretch at least three times.
- Jaw joint stretch: Relax the jaw by resting your tongue’s tip behind the upper front teeth and lowering the jaw’s bottom so that the lower teeth move away from the upper teeth. This will help relieve muscle tightness in the neck and jaw.
Is clenching your jaw bad, and when to see a dentist?
No, clenching your jaw isn’t life-threatening.
Tightness in the joint or jaw muscles is a common occurrence caused by various factors — mainly anxiety and stress — as well as inflammation, teeth grinding, and TMD. While it may cause slight discomfort and pain when speaking, eating, or chewing, it can be easily managed with a few simple stretches and jaw exercises.
However, if symptoms worsen and interfere with your quality of life and daily activities, you should speak to your dentist.
Buy a clenching mouth guard now from Clear Comfort Night Guards
Located in California, Clear Comfort Night Guards dental lab has been helping dentists for more than a decade by delivering night guards for teeth or jaw clenching. They create custom night guards for varying levels of bruxism at a reasonable price.
Reach out to them directly for more information on their clenching mouth guard online!
About the Author
Delbert B. Garrett is a healthcare professional with a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree. While he’s currently associated with a medical company, he also loves writing blogs to help his audience learn more about oral health.