OUCH – You May be Suffering from Teeth Grinding

man hurting from teeth grinding

What ailment causes headache, toothaches, neck pains and jaw popping and may go undetected for years? The answer is teeth grinding. The bigger question, however, is that why it so often goes undetected, especially when there is a treatment?

The scientific term for teeth grinding is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, or TMJ disorders for short. The temporomandibular joints are on each side of your head, right in front of your ears. They connect the lower jaw to your skull, and while the J in TMJ refers to the joints specifically, issues with teeth grinding generally involve this region.

Adult TMJ is very different from how children grind their teeth. With kids, teeth grinding generally occurs when a child has new teeth with new surfaces. It is not a result of stress and usually resolves as more permanent teeth erupt.

It’s a different story with adults. Many adults will grind at night subconsciously; it can even wake them up out of a deep sleep. It often occurs during times of stress. And it’s because of a lack of awareness, and a rather varied number of symptoms, that teeth grinding goes undetected.

The Wide Range of Teeth Grinding Symptoms

TMJ disorders are difficult to pin down. A patient may have them at certain points in their life, but not all the time. When the condition does flare up, it can be disruptive to your lifestyle, even though many adult continue with their daily lives and do nothing to treat it.

As noted by MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine, the typical symptoms associated with TMJ disorders include:

  • Biting or chewing difficulty or discomfort
  • Clicking, popping or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth
  • Dull aching pain in the face
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Jaw pain or tenderness of the jaw
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth

The condition can be truly uncomfortable. I’ve had patients who wake up with neck pain, or experience jaw pops every day. Their teeth can ache on the right side, the left side or both. They may even hear ringing in their ears.

Why does teeth grinding go undetected? My theory is that it occurs during times of stress, when a person is preoccupied with other thoughts. It may build up over time, as the symptoms may mound in severity and pain. So what can be done?

Mouth Guards to the Rescue

It’s difficult to prevent the actual cause of the tooth grinding, but we can take steps to lessen the impact on the tooth enamel.

The most effective method of treating TMJ disorders is through the use of a night guard. It can help prevent an adult from cracking their teeth and grinding through their tooth enamel. Without the guard, the grinding will wear down the cartilage in the joints, and a surgery may eventually be required.

If you’re picturing yourself sleeping with the kind of mouthguard you might see Clay Matthews wearing, rest assured there are alternatives. You can go with a mouth guard sold over the counter, but they’re rather bulky.

The professional, custom-fit mouthguard from a dental professional will be more comfortable and conform to your bite. It will effectively relieve the joint pressure, and preserve the enamel on your teeth.

Helping you find relief for the stress points in your life is a bit outside the area of our expertise. But we can help you find ways to prevent those stressors from giving you even more things to worry about by limiting the destructive effects of teeth grinding.


Call us today with any questions or to book your appointment!

Glendale:  414-352-1600 or Greendale:  414-421-2303


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