Why does my jaw hurt when I wake up in the morning?

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a headache, or with sore jaw muscles? Does your jaw ever click or do you sometimes have trouble opening your mouth completely?

These are common signs that you may be grinding or clenching your teeth. You may be well aware of these habits if you catch yourself in the act during the day, but many patients are actually unaware that they are grinding. Frequently, grinding occurs overnight when you go to sleep, and this results in the feeling of a stiff jaw, muscle soreness or headache in the morning.

Furthermore, jaw clicking or a rotation of your bottom jaw to one side may indicate that there is an underlying problem in your jaw joint, and a visit to your family dentist may be in order.

So what are the consequences if this continues?

Firstly, the discomfort in your joints and muscles that you are experiencing will continue without removal of the cause of the problem. This means that your jaw muscles will become sorer and your headaches will continue, or worsen.

Secondly, you may start to cause permanent damage in your jaw joints which, in the long term, can result in limited opening ability of your mouth, or pain on opening and closing. This can affect your ability to speak and eat.

Lastly, grinding and clenching for prolonged periods of time can cause damage to your teeth. This includes the cracking and wearing of your teeth, which can introduce a whole array of different issues that you may need to deal with such as pain, changes to your smile and loss of tooth structure.

How can I stop it?

The most important thing is to realise that you are engaging in these behaviours and to try and catch yourself in the act. Remember that unless you are eating, your upper and lower teeth should not be touching. Try and be mindful of this during the day and correct this habit.

If you feel that you may be grinding during the night, it may be wise to visit your family dentist who may be able to recommend something that resembles a mouth guard to protect your teeth and prevent your grinding movements during the night as well as various exercises for your jaw muscles.

Remember, if ever in doubt, your dentist is only a phone call away!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Dr J