It is very common for patients to experience tight jaw muscles. “But just because it’s a common problem, doesn’t mean living with tight muscles is healthy, and it definitely doesn’t mean you just have to live with it,” says Boynton Beach dentist Dr. Jamie J. Alexander.
“When I examine the oral health of a patient, I always palpate the jaw muscles and look for signs of tightness and tenderness. I then work with the patient to explore and diagnose why their jaw muscles are tight. Once we understand the problem, the patient and I can work together to treat the problem.”
Tightness in the jaw can be the result of multiple factors such as stress, anxiety, teeth grinding at night, overworking the muscles by chewing gum, and the occlusion (how the top and bottom teeth come together) while biting, chewing, and even at rest. There are more factors that may be involved.
“Based on how the teeth come together, wear on the teeth, which muscles are most tender, images of the jaw joints, reported chewing habits and bruxism (night time grinding), and other observations, we develop a picture of what is setting up the tightness,” says Dr. Alexander.
Jaw tightness falls into the category of TMJ Disorders (or TMD) – with TMJ being an abbreviation for the temporomandibular joints (or jaw joints). Stress is a common cause of muscle tension. You may or may not notice that you clench your jaw or grind your teeth in times of stress. It may “come out” while you are asleep. Nevertheless, the clenching and grinding are causing your jaw muscles to tighten up.
“Of course, this is uncomfortable,” says Dr. Alexander, “and you shouldn’t assume it’s a benign condition that will resolve on its own. While you are clenching and grinding, you are applying force on your dental enamel, dental roots, ligaments, and jaw joints. This force is destructive over time and can lead to the need for extensive dentistry.”
If you are suffering from tight jaw muscles, give us a call. Dr. Alexander has completed advanced training at The Pankey Institute to help people with TMJ Disorders and has many years of experience successfully solving TMJ problems like yours. Dr. Alexander can break the cycle of pain and relieve your muscle tension by making a custom bite splint that is comfortable to wear while you sleep and when you notice tightness during the day.