Jaw clenching is a very common problem that afflicts many people. Jaw clenching, or bruxism, can turn into a chronic condition that has deleterious effects on your teeth and jaw. It can occur in a number of situations, but stress is one of the conditions that really lends itself well to the onset of jaw clenching and teeth grinding. If you've been experiencing jaw clenching, you should try to see your dentist. Given the restraints on dental work and other services due to the coronavirus pandemic, call now so you can set up an appointment as soon as you can. If you wait, you could experience severe side effects of the clenching that will only require more dental work.

Why It Happens

No one really knows why jaw clenching starts. It's known that stress can bring it about, but the mechanism in your body that senses stress and directs it into jaw clenching is unknown. There may be a genetic factor involved, too. Regardless of the neurological pathway that signals your jaw muscles to tighten up, if you undergo stress or tend to tense up when you concentrate, jaw clenching is a possibility. Jaw clenching and teeth grinding are related to temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), though the relationship can go both ways; the clenching may be a symptom of TMJ, or it could be a separate condition that makes the TMJ worse.

What Effects It Can Have

Unfortunately, jaw clenching leads to some rather severe side effects. Jaw pain is one, as is a headache. Your teeth can be worn down, and they can actually crack if you clench your jaw hard enough or grind your teeth as part of the process. Bone loss from the jaw area is another possibility. If the muscles around your jaw tense up enough when you sleep, you could wake up feeling like your jaw is frozen, even though it isn't. If the clenching makes your TMJ worse, you could feel and hear increased clicking and grinding as you open and close your jaw, and your jaw could feel like it locks up at times.

How to Stop It

Stopping jaw clenching takes a few strategies. If stress is a contributor, you have to address the cause of stress. If you can't identify the stress' origin, or if you can't get rid of the stress, then you need to get a nightguard made for your teeth. Your dentist can do this for you, as well as take x-rays to monitor the state of your jaw. It's possible that you could need surgery for TMJ or for cracked teeth, in which case the dentist can refer you to an oral surgeon.

Contact your family dentist if you notice you are clenching your jaw either at night or during the day. If you already have the condition but have noticed more jaw clenching over the past few months, make an appointment immediately as you don't want the condition to get worse. Contact a family dentist for more information.