Sore Jaw in the Mornings? The Answer Might Be TMJ

If you regularly wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, it's possible you're putting undue stress on your teeth while you sleep. Make an appointment to see your dentist. They will be looking for one of two likely causes. The first is bruxism, which is the technical name for teeth grinding. It's thought that bruxism can be caused by stress, and so the condition will often disappear with some lifestyle changes to resolve any likely causes of stress. Mouth guards can often be beneficial to protect your teeth enamel while you sleep, as it is possible to remove a significant portion of this protective enamel with grinding. If there is no likely cause of stress, the answer might be a temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). There are a number of suspected causes of TMJ, but fortunately, there are also a number of possible solutions.

Two Similar Conditions

The temporomandibular joints are what connect your lower jaw to your skull, and TMJ can place undue stress on these joints. While stress can aggravate the condition, the exact causes of TMJ are not known, although it's widely thought to be genetic, and even hormonal. Unlike bruxism, where the jaw muscles become painful, TMJ causes pain in the temporomandibular joints. The two conditions can feel quite similar to the patient, which is why your dentist will need to perform a full examination.

Damaged Teeth

Those who suffer from prolonged, untreated bruxism will have noticeably damaged teeth due to the constant grinding. This is not necessarily the case with TMJ sufferers, and your dentist might wish to x-ray your jaw in order to check the state of your temporomandibular joints. Once a diagnosis has been made, your dentist will be able to treat the condition.

The Mouth Guard Option

Most TMJ sufferers will benefit from a custom-made mouth guard. This is a device that is designed to be worn while you sleep, and it essentially repositions your jaw into a more appropriate position, relieving the stress on your temporomandibular joints. It needs to be custom-made to ensure that it's comfortable enough to be worn during sleep. Sleeping with a mouth guard each night trains your jaw to remain in the correct position overnight, which should stop you from waking up with a sore jaw in the morning.

For extreme TMJ, surgery is also an option as this will permanently reposition your jaw. This surgery will not alter your physical appearance, and is generally only a last resort. A custom-made mouth guard is likely to be more than sufficient for beating that pesky TMJ.