It’s the middle of summer, and you’re trying to juggle a hectic work schedule and vacation. To put is simply, you’re on the grind — but what kind of grind? Perhaps you or someone else has pointed out that you have been grinding your teeth, a habitual or involuntary action also referred to as bruxism, throughout the day or, more commonly, at night. Have questions? Our TMJ Specialist in San Francisco can help.
Why does our brain signal us to grind our teeth?
The human brain endures lighter and deeper stages of sleep. As it approaches deep sleep, the body releases control of different parts and organs of the body, including the jaw and tongue. The jaw becomes heavy, and the tongue can expand to almost twice its size, both blocking the airway and consequently making it difficult to breathe. Researchers have found that those who experience any blockage at night grind their teeth in order to reopen this airway.
This phenomenon presents an obvious problem — pain — but also has many other consequences. These complications include:
- Tooth stress fractures
- These most often appear within the earliest stages of teeth grinding and are most commonly seen on the molars. Many patients confuse the discoloration to be cavities, and without proper treatment, they lose sections of these teeth. When the severity has reached a certain level, only total tooth restoration can repair the teeth
- Excessive exertion from the upper and lower jaw
- As teeth become shortened, the upper and lower jaw have to compensate and come together with greater impact in order to chew. This exacerbates the initial issue
- Eroded enamel
- Constant clenching and grinding gradually erodes the teeth’s enamel, or the hard, glossy substance that covers the teeth
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Syndrome
- When excessive pressure on the jaw becomes habitual, patients often are consulted for TMJ
Although the jaw is the human skull’s largest bone, it can only withstand so much pressure. With that being said, Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome is a condition commonly seen in patients who complain of grinding their teeth. Bones, blood vessels, and nerves comprise your TMJ, which you have two of — one on each side of your jaw.
Signs of TMJ Syndrome that may be cause for a visit to the chiropractor include headache, earache, chronic jaw pain, problems with chewing, and “clicking” from the jaw.
How can our San Francisco chiropractor help?
By alleviating tension in your spine (especially in your upper back and neck), chiropractors are able to eliminate dysfunction associated with pressure on nerves that are connected to either or both of your TMJs. In other words, if you’re looking for a TMJ specialist in San Francisco, we can help! ART is one specific technique that allows chiropractors to relieve these adhesions and stress in your jaw muscles. When your TMJ is able to relax and return to its proper motions, the pain will go away.
Some other suggestions from our San Francisco chiropractors:
- Incorporate activities that eliminate stress into your daily routine
- Disengage from electronics at least one hour prior to getting in bed
- Address your posture when sitting, standing, and sleeping
- Keep your teeth apart
- Your teeth should only touch momentarily when you’re chewing
- Avoid over-opening your jaw
- Yawning is one of many activities that will cause you to over-open your jaw. Try keeping your tongue at the roof of your mouth while doing so to prevent over-opening
- Wear a mouthguard
- If you’re looking to only wear a mouth guard when sleeping, consider stabilization splints. They are flat and cover all of the teeth. These guards ease the TMJs and consequently reduce facial pain
- Make sure that all lights are off in the room before going to sleep
- If light is shedding into your room from the street, try using black-out curtains
If you’re looking for a TMJ specialist in San Francisco and would like to learn more or schedule an appointment with one of our chiropractors, schedule an appointment today.