Stress. Tension. Genetics. Injury. What do these four things have in common when it comes to your oral health? It could be your jaw, or more specifically, jaw clenching. Jaw clenching occurs often unconsciously, when you either clench your jaw so tightly that you grind your teeth (called bruxism) or when you hold your jaw in a clenched position without your teeth touching, Either way, jaw clenching can be a big problem for your oral health. Here’s why.
Believe it or not, your jaw plays an integral role in your oral health. Not only does it allow you to chew your food, speak, and open and close your mouth, a damaged jaw or genetic predisposition to jaw clenching can cause temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a condition wherein the temporomandibular joint of the jaw becomes misaligned with the jaw joint – where the jaw connects to the rest of the skull.
This can cause many other problems, oral health-related and not, including clicking and popping of the jaw, jaw stiffness, the inability to open and close the mouth, headaches, neck aches, backaches, bruxism, and bite issues.
So, what can you do if you clench your jaw? It’s not always easy to figure this out, especially when many of us clench our jaw unconsciously, never realizing we do it. A clenched jaw may not seem like that big of a deal, but the longer we do it, the worse the problems can get.
The first thing you should do if you suspect you are a jaw clencher is to speak to Dr. Mingus. Though not everyone who clenches their jaw will need intervention, the good news is that there are solutions to your jaw clenching. These include custom oral orthotics such as bite guards which help to protect your teeth and jaw. In some cases, orthodontics may be required to better align the jaw and bite and help prevent you from clenching your jaw and causing damage to your teeth.
If you believe you may be clenching your jaw, or if you are experiencing unexplained symptoms of jaw clenching such as those mentioned above, please contact Dr. Mingus today.