Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a painful condition that can lead to teeth grinding and clenching, especially in your sleep. As a result, you can wear your teeth down, cause them to crack, and even affect your ability to breathe while asleep. If you haven’t yet started experiencing the secondary effects of TMJ, you may think there’s no reason to seek treatment for it now. However, leaving TMJ untreated can create problems for you that multiply quickly.
TMJ sneaks up on you
Initially, TMJ Disorder may not seem like something that’s really that bad. Annoying, yes; no one likes having even mild jaw pain or stiffness, but TMJ Disorder can often start out as a very low-key disorder. You might blame it on stress at work and decide the problem will go away once you figure out how to deal with your job. But TMJ Disorder can gradually get worse, and you may not notice how bad it gets until you start to experience severe side effects including constant jaw and tooth pain.
Worn teeth and bad bites
With time, the clenching and grinding can erode the enamel on each tooth, especially the molars, creating an opportunity for cavities to form. If the damage is bad enough, you may have to get fillings or crowns to restore the surfaces of the teeth. TMJ Disorder can also change your bite over time, leading to difficulty with chewing because of jaw pain. Your molars may not come together correctly when you bite down, and the constant tension can lead to headaches, too.
But that’s not all
Two other conditions stemming from TMJ Disorder don’t get a lot of attention, but they can be just as devastating. One is that the sound of you grinding your teeth at night can become irritating to your partner, making what sleep they get less restful. Unless you can work out an arrangement where you have separate rooms or the other person wears earplugs, your relationship could quickly end up on the rocks.
The other issue is that TMJ Disorder may be linked to sleep apnea. As you move your jaw in your sleep and tense up your muscles, you could affect how easy it is to breathe in your sleep, and there’s evidence that having sleep apnea itself could also promote TMJ Disorder as a secondary disorder. In other words, once you have one condition, the chances of developing the other seem higher. Sleep apnea can lead to higher blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks or stroke, as well as to moodiness and memory problems that could affect your relationships and performance at work. Drowsy driving becomes a possibility, too.
Most people will have a spell of jaw clenching due to stress in their lives, but if yours goes on for more than a few days, you need to seek treatment to prevent all of these side effects from occurring. Contact us to discuss ways to reduce and stop the effects of TMJ Disorder and improve your quality of life.
A MESSAGE FROM DR. AMY HARTSFIELD:
At TMJ & Sleep Solutions of Alabama, our mission is to provide personalized care to restore quality of life, one patient at a time. If you are experiencing issues with pain, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment!