Why You Wake Up With A Sore Jaw
Waking up in the morning is one of the most significant times of our day. It's a transitional time when we journey from the comfort of sleep to the reality of our day. For many people, this can be a warm happy time. However, for others, not so much. This is because many people wake up with sore, aching jaws, wondering why in the world their mouths are so sore.
The Culprit Is Teeth Grinding or Bruxism
Bruxism is a fancy term for teeth grinding and is something that happens to almost all of us occasionally. It tends to happen when we are feeling anger or anxiety. It may also happen if we are disturbed while sleeping.
If we grind our teeth constantly, it is called bruxism and it is something that is done by an estimated 8% of the population. It is believed that bruxism starts when we are young. It is thought that 15% of children repeatedly clench or grind their teeth. While this bruxism eventually decreases to the point where only about 3% of seniors brux, it can have a very negative effect during those intervening years.
For example, the enamel on our teeth tends to wear down at the rate of about 0.03 of a millimeter every 10 years. However, bruxers can actually lose 2 mm of enamel by their mid-20s. And if you brux, this can happen as often as 40 minutes out of every hour of sleep. It produces about 250 pounds of force per square inch, which is actually enough pressure to crack a walnut.
What Causes Teeth Grinding
If you brux during your sleep, it is the result of subconscious activity by your brain. It is thought that when you're asleep, your subconscious can sort of run free and that this can cause you to brux. It has been found that some bruxism is rhythmic and pulses every couple of seconds–like chewing. But in some cases, the pulses can last up to 30 seconds. This form of bruxism is generally called clenching, rather than teeth grinding.
Bruxism is normally classified as a sleep disorder and is habitual. It can start as the result of a medical problem, an allergic reaction, a traumatic incident such as an automobile accident or because you have had a severe amount of stress. However, once it becomes habitual, you will continue to brux.
The Symptoms of Teeth Grinding or Bruxism
It's almost amazing how many symptoms there to bruxism. Of course, the most obvious is waking up in the morning with a sore teeth or a sore jaw. Other symptoms can be depression, eating disorders, headaches or even migraines. Anxiety, tension and stress can be symptoms of bruxism as can loose teeth, tinnitus, pain in the neck, insomnia and receding gums.
How Bruxism Is Diagnosed
Since tooth wear can be caused by factors other than bruxism, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose the problem during a routine dental exam. Your dentist may notice that your teeth are abraded–that is showing unusual wear–but that doesn't necessarily mean that you are bruxing. The most reliable way to diagnose bruxism is by measuring the movement of chewing muscles using EMG or electromyography.
The Good and Bad News of Teeth Grinding
The bad news of bruxing is that there is no ultimate cure–due to the fact that it is an unconscious activity. However, there are ways that you can keep it under control and mitigate its effects. So, if you are waking up almost every morning with a sore jaw, be sure to see your dentist, get the problem diagnosed and let him or her help you find relief from your teeth grinding.