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Why Does My Jaw Always Hurt at Night?

Why Does My Jaw Always Hurt at Night?

Chronic jaw pain has many possible underlying causes, ranging from an abscessed tooth and gum disease inflammation to arthritis or dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). 

But when jaw pain stirs you from your sleep — or when you routinely wake up with a stiff, achy jaw — chances are it’s an indication of unconscious nighttime teeth grinding or gnashing, otherwise known as bruxism

At Smiles in Springfield in Springfield, Virginia, our expert team can spot the signs of bruxism during a routine dental exam, and provide effective treatment solutions that help put an end to chronic jaw pain, protect your oral health, and prevent serious dental complications. 

Take a moment as Dr. Quang Tran and Dr. Truc Duong explore the problem of involuntary nighttime grinding, and explain how a simple treatment — wearing a custom oral appliance — can help.

Understanding sleep bruxism

Bruxism, or involuntary teeth clenching and grinding, is a common problem among adults and children alike. It’s usually a product of chronic stress or anxiety, but can also be triggered by: 

When involuntary teeth grinding happens during the day, it’s called “awake bruxism.” Daytime jaw clenching is often related to stress, anxiety, anger, or intense focus. Awake bruxism is easier to notice (and manage) because you’re conscious when it happens. 

Nighttime grinding, on the other hand, happens when you sleep. So-called “sleep bruxism” tends to be more harmful because you remain completely unaware that it’s happening, often until there’s a significant problem — like unexplained persistent jaw pain.

Nighttime grinding warning signs

It’s not unusual for people to overlook, ignore, or dismiss the early signs of asleep bruxism, like waking up with jaw pain, headaches, or earaches that gradually resolve as the day goes on. 

Still, if jaw pain frequently wakes you at night — or if your jaw also feels achy most mornings — it’s a good idea to see our team for an oral exam. We’ll ask if you experience: 

We’ll also check your mouth for visible signs of wear caused by sleep bruxism, such as:

Whether you’re experiencing several of these symptoms or your only concern is recurrent nighttime jaw pain, schedule a visit with our team as soon as possible. Without intervention, sleep bruxism can undermine your oral health and lead to worsening complications.

When bruxism goes untreated 

Nightly jaw clenching and teeth grinding can place up to 250 pounds of force on your teeth and jaws, causing excessive tension and ongoing pain. 

Without intervention, sleep bruxism can lead to significant oral health complications like jaw or bite misalignment issues, chronic headaches, and worn, cracked, loosened, or lost teeth. 

Persistent nighttime grinding is also a frequent starting point for TMJ pain and dysfunction. Without intervention, sleep bruxism can eventually lead to a full-blown TMJ disorder that limits jaw movement and causes ongoing jaw, neck, ear, and head pain. 

Put a stop to nighttime grinding 

As with any chronic health condition that carries a risk of worsening complications, the sooner you treat nighttime grinding and clenching, the better. This typically means incorporating lifestyle changes and stretches to actively alleviate jaw tension, and wearing a custom night guard to prevent grinding when you sleep.

Prescription night guard use prevents contact between your upper and lower teeth, and it gently repositions your jaw to keep it relaxed and stable. If you have considerable jaw pain, you may also benefit from supportive TMJ treatment.

Once your nighttime grinding is well managed, we may recommend replacing lost teeth with a dental implant or bridge, or restoring any damaged teeth with dental bonding or a crown.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth at night, Smiles in Springfield can help. To learn more or schedule a visit with Dr. Tran or Dr. Duong, give us a call at 703-595-2403 today.

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