The Dangers of Nighttime Jaw Pain

Woman with dental jaw painAt the end of a long day, it can be easy to shrug off seemingly small aches and pains. If you realize most nights when you get into bed that your jaw is sore, notice it popping during your evening snack, or feel it sting when you yawn, you might be tempted to just ignore these symptoms. However, with many years of experience in dentistry and oral health, Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our team urge you to take nighttime jaw pain seriously. It’s not “just something that happens to everyone” and no, you shouldn’t “just grin and bear it.”

The truth is that evening jaw issues could be signs of a bigger problem, plus they could be creating a cascade of other dental problems. As is always the case with oral health issues, the sooner you address your symptoms, the better. Left untreated, they will most likely only worsen and potentially become more difficult to handle. We know that many of our patients probably struggle with aching jaws but may not realize the seriousness of this soreness. In the following blog, we explain the dangers of nighttime jaw pain, and how we can help.

The Hazards of Bruxism

One common culprit of nighttime jaw pain is bruxism, or teeth grinding. Many people unknowingly clench their teeth together while they sleep. This could be the result of an improper bite, orthodontic issues, stress, or other factors. Clenching your teeth together can strain and injure your jaw muscles, causing soreness. Furthermore, grinding the chewing surfaces of your teeth together can wear them down, putting you at greater risk for cavities, fractures, and other issues. If you suffer from bruxism, Dr. Flanagan can help diagnose your condition and recommend an appropriate treatment, such as a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding against each other.

Troublesome TMJ Disorder

Your jaw joints could the source of your evening discomfort. As Mayo Clinic describes, “the temporomandibular…joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull.” If your TMJ becomes stretched, misaligned, torn, or otherwise damaged, this can cause significant jaw pain, as well as headaches, popping sounds, stiffness, and a variety of other uncomfortable symptoms. Hormonal changes, genetic factors, autoimmune issues, infections, and bruxism can lead to TMJ disorder. Jaw pain from TMJ disorder may occur especially at night due to overuse of the joint during the day, or because tooth grinding during sleep is the cause. Dr. Flanagan can determine if TMJ disorder is the source of your nighttime jaw soreness and create a customized treatment plan for you, which could include oral medications, a night guard, massage, and other therapies.

Be Wise About Wisdom Teeth

It can be difficult to distinguish jaw pain from a toothache, especially for your molars. The line between jaw soreness and tooth pain becomes particularly blurred for those tricky teeth furthest back in your mouth: your wisdom teeth. These third molars often lack sufficient space to erupt from the gums or protrude at an odd angle, putting pressure on your other teeth and jaw tissues. Furthermore, even if they come in without incident, third molars are challenging to properly clean, making them more susceptible to decay and infection. Your wisdom teeth may bother you more at night because you put more pressure on them when you lie down in bed. You also may be busy throughout the day and only notice your discomfort at night, or the pain could be worsened by eating certain foods in the evening. If you’re suffering from nighttime jaw pain and still have your wisdom teeth, Dr. Flanagan will examine them to decide if they could be the cause. If so, extracting them may alleviate your symptoms.

Do You Suffer From Nighttime Jaw Pain?

Don’t wait to address your discomfort! Dr. Flanagan and our team are here to help relieve your symptoms and maintain your oral health. Contact our Houston dental practice today to schedule an appointment.

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