Save your teeth and keep your grinding on the dance floor. If you’ve been experiencing the painful symptoms of bruxism, you need to know the story of Angela Clark.

At age 40, Angela Clark began waking up in the morning with terrible headaches.

” She felt like someone slammed the wall during the night.”

She tried aspirin; she visited her doctor.

No one had any answers, and nothing relieved her throbbing pain.

Finally, her dentist told her that she had temporomandibular joint syndrome, commonly called TMJ.

Basically, while Angela slept, she clenched her teeth together with a powerful force.

She had no idea she did it, and she did not know how to stop.

Teeth grinding and clenching are common causes of TMJ, a joint disorder of the jaw that often leads to severe headaches.

Some doctors estimate that up to 96 percent of adults and 15 percent of children have “bruxism”, the official name for tooth grinding or clenching, at some point in their lives.

One common cause of TMJ is upper and lower teeth that do not fit together perfectly. Most people’s teeth do not fit well, but Angel’s square jaw and even teeth matched like a dentist’s dream.

For her, that perfect fit just meant it was easier to bite down hard.

Teeth grinding can lead to other problems besides TMJ, such as mouth infections, worn-down teeth and sore necks and backs. Older people may develop painful arthritis in the overused jaw joint.

Bruxism is a problem that is difficult to cure, but there are some ways you can help yourself quit this harmful habit.

1) Think calm.

Many people grind their teeth unconsciously in response to stress. On the surface, Angela Clark seemed to be handling problems at work and home well, but her inner tension was revealing itslef while she slept.

Anything you can do to make your life less stressful will probably help you quit grinding you teeth. Give yourself as hour to relax before bedtime. You may want to seek counseling if you feel stressful circumstances are out of your control.

2) Examine your psyche.

Bruxism may be a subconscious outlet for anxiety or anger. If you are very achievement-oriented and compulsively punctual, you’re more likely to grind your teeth. Even a stressful event late in life, such as the loss of a spouse, can trigger bruxism.

Ask your sleeping partner to wake you up. Sleeping partners don’t have to grit their teeth and bear it when they hear you grinding your teeth. Walking you up will help you break the habit. (Don’t ask your partner to describe what your tooth grinding sounds like. Doctors say the noise is almost impossible to make consciously.)

3) Close your lips, hold your teeth apart and relax your jaw.

Do this 50 times a day. When you are comfortable with this exercise, picture yourself sleeping with your mouth in this relaxed position.

4) Clench your teeth for five seconds, then relax your jaw for five seconds.

Do this exercise five times in a row, six times a day, for two weeks.

5) Change your sleeping position.

Lying on your back with a pillow under your neck and knees may help relax your lower jaw. If you must sleep on your side, try piling pillows so that they support your shoulder and arm as well as your head. That position should take some of the strain off your neck and pressure off your teeth.

6) Create a stress-free home environment for child tooth grinders.

Have a relaxed and enjoyable bedtime ritual. Talk about what happened during the day, especially about anything that may have scared or worried your child.

7) Get rid of allergy triggers.

People with allergies, especially children, have a tendency to grind their teeth. It somehow helps relieve itching, sneezing and coughing.

8) Be nice to your jaw.

If your tooth grinding is causing your jaw to ache, try eating soft foods for a while, take aspirin or ibuprofen, and hold a heating pad to your jaw. Stop chewing gum, and avoid hard, chewy foods like caramels, cough meats, raw carrots gum, and avoid hard chewy foods like caramels, tough meats, raw carrots and celery. Don’t open your mouth too wide when you yawn either.

9) Seek help from your dentist or an orthodontist.

Angela now has an appliance that holds her jaw back and eases the tension on her joint while she sleeps.

“I used to dread going to sleep at night because I knew I’d wake up in so much pain. That just added stress to my already stressful life. I’m past that now.

How to Diagnose yourself for TMJ

Some sure signs of teeth grinding or clenching include:

– headaches

– an aching, tired or tender jaw

– a jaw that clicks

– sharp pain when you yawn, talk or chew

– pain in your neck or shoulders or near your ears

– sensitive teeth

That toothache you think you have may just be a symptom of bruxism. Angela Clark’s dentist gave her an appliance to wear that held her jaw open at night. Her headaches went away, and she eventually quit wearing device. About a year later, and she eventually quit wearing the device. About a year later, she went back to the dentist, sure she had a bad tooth. “You’d think I would have known,” Angela says wryly.

TMJ is easy to mistake for a simple earache too. Before you go to the ear specialist, put your little finger into your ear canal with the fingernail facing toward the back. Open and close your jaw. You will easily be able to feel the movement of your temporomandibular joint. If this causes you a lot of discomfort, you may have a TMJ.

If you can’t treat your tooth grinding or clenching at home, tell your dentist what you’re experiencing. Being fit for an appliance can be expensive and lengthy process, but it’s well worth it.

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