When you have tightness or tension in your jaw, it can be uncomfortable to say the least. You could be experiencing pain in your neck and throat as well as your jaw. You could also have trouble opening your mouth all the way, or it may even be impossible for you to do this. You may even have symptoms that don’t appear to have anything to do with your jaw, including headaches or ear infections. What does all this mean? Here are the top three things your jaw tightness and tension may be pointing to!
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
You’ve likely heard of TMJ disorders, where a misalignment, trauma, or incorrect bite could result in jaw pain and odd sounds. People often experience clicking or popping noises when opening and closing their mouth in addition to headaches, jaw tightness, and even teeth grinding as a result of these conditions.
These disorders can be very uncomfortable, but fortunately, your dentist may be able to help! Talk to your dentist about any jaw pain including any tension or tightness that you’re experiencing. He or she can perform a simple jaw exam to determine if your bite or your temporomandibular joint could be the problem.
Stress or Anxiety
Many people are taught to keep their emotions to themselves and deal with feelings such as anxiety or stress inwardly. This can lead to tension throughout the body, and you may experience this tension in your jaw muscles. When you’re under pressure or feeling stressed out, you may tighten your jaw in response to these stressors, leading to jaw tightness and tension.
There are other ways to handle stress and anxiety rather than placing the pressure on your jaw or your muscles. This type of tension could lead to dull headaches or even intense migraines and can worsen your existing stress. Talk to your doctor or your dentist about healthy habits for handling stress rather than taking that tension in your jaw!
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Do you know if you grind your teeth? Teeth grinding is a common habit that many people aren’t aware they have. Whether you grind your teeth in times of stress or even while sleeping, this could be the sneaky culprit behind your jaw tightness and tension. Bruxism is the technical name for teeth grinding, and bruxism can be extremely damaging to your teeth and put immense pressure on your jaw.
If you grind your teeth at night, you may wake up with jaw pain, a dull headache, or even sore teeth and gums. Since bruxism puts so much pressure on your teeth, this can lead to chips and fractures, enamel erosion, and inflammation, all of which can increase your risk for tooth loss over time. Talk to your dentist about bruxism—he or she can perform an exam and determine if you’re exhibiting signs of teeth grinding that can benefit from treatment.
You don’t have to live with jaw tightness and tension. These symptoms often point to a larger problem that can easily be addressed with your dentist. No one should have to live with pain, so talk to your dentist about your jaw aches and tension to see what’s causing it. There is treatment for bruxism, stress, and TMJ disorders!