We’ve all had restless nights where we don’t get enough sleep. Sometimes we’re stressed about work or family situations. Perhaps we consumed a bit too much caffeine before it was time for bed. Other times, we wake up feeling anything but relaxed and refreshed, and our jaw feels still and achy. Sure, the pain might go away as the day progresses, but sure enough, the pain returns the following day, and once again, we’re tired. If this sounds like you, you might have TMJ disorder. The good news is that you don’t need to wake up in pain.

The Effects of TMJ Disorder on the Body

If you have a misaligned jaw or a bad bite, it can affect other parts of your body too. For example, even the slightest imbalance of your jaw joints (temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ) can leave you with a headache or feeling nauseous or dizzy. You can even be left with poor body posture, wearing of your teeth, reduced strength and flexibility, muscle soreness and tenderness, or a compromised airway.

Getting your jaw back into alignment is critical so that your body can work efficiently and effectively—and it all begins with a properly aligned bite. Thankfully, your dentist can help with that, but more on that later.

You need your sleep. Don’t let TMJ disorder interfere.

Those who have been diagnosed with TMJ disorder frequently wake up feeling sore and overly tired. In addition, certain positions that patients sleep in can further exacerbate the problems and pain that are associated with TMD. For example, sleeping on your side without proper head and neck support may cause you to wake up with a headache or other pain.

The best sleep position for TMJ/TMD sufferers is to sleep on their back. If you don’t have a medical condition that would warrant you sleeping in another position, sleeping on your back could provide the following benefits if you wake up from TMJ pain:

  • Elimination of pressure on the jaw joint.
  • Proper support for your head, neck, and shoulders.
  • Proper alignment of the body because the spine is resting in a neutral position.
  • Reduced grinding and clenching of the teeth due to bruxism.

Sleep is vitally important for our health. Just a single night of interrupted sleep can wreak havoc on our energy levels, mood, and even our ability to regulate our hormones. When our sleep is chronically interrupted, it affects our mental health, accelerates the aging process, and makes us far more susceptible to various illnesses and diseases.

Clenching and grinding can trigger an existing TMJ disorder condition.

Though bruxism doesn’t necessarily lead to TMD, clenching and grinding can trigger an existing TMD condition. Bruxism occurs when you unconsciously clench your jaw or grind your teeth. Though you can experience this while you are awake, most people suffer from this condition when sleeping.

If you are concerned that you might be experiencing bruxism and want to ensure it doesn’t trigger an existing TMD condition, then you should be aware of the following risk factors:

  • Stress: Bruxism is highly correlated with anxiety and stress. Anger, tension, and frustration can also lead to teeth grinding. Further, it isn’t uncommon for people to clench their jaw when working through intense emotions or concentrating.
  • Genetics: Sleep bruxism can be the result of genetics. For example, if one of your parents, your aunt or uncle, or a grandparent has a history of bruxism, you are at increased risk of suffering from the condition as well.
  • Other disorders: Dementia, night terrors, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy are all associated with the presence of bruxism.

Stress is a trigger for TMJ disorder.

Unfortunately, stress seems to be part of life. And to make matters worse, stress is a trigger for TMD. So if you are feeling stressed, it is crucial to recognize the risks that staying stressed can have on your body. Though our bodies are designed to handle some stress, it can affect all body systems, including the cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems, when we don’t take steps to lessen it.

Taking steps to reduce your stress will not only help lessen the strain on your jaw and neck but can help you in other ways too. If you are feeling stressed out and can feel discomfort in your jaw or neck, consider trying one or more of these stress-relieving tips.

Eat and drink to optimize your health.

Though it is always important to pay attention to what you eat and drink, certain foods can help lessen stress. In particular, Mediterranean diet foods such as fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats can help you reduce stress and feel better.

Exercise regularly.

Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity three or four times a week. Go for a walk or run, lift light weights for toning, or dance. Whatever you choose, the key here is to move your body regularly.

Stop using tobacco and nicotine products.

The toxic mix of chemicals in tobacco products can lead to illnesses including fatal lung diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer. But not only that, use of tobacco products can make you feel antsy and jittery, thus exacerbating your stress levels.

Practice deep-breathing exercises once per day.

There are various ways that you can practice breathing techniques for stress relief, so try to take time out of your day at the same time of day to try it.

Reduce triggers of stress.

If interactions with certain people or certain activities are causing you stress, look for ways to mitigate those experiences in your life. The goal is to create more moments of relaxation and happiness and fewer that cause you stress or anxiety.

Examine your values and live by them.

Sometimes we feel like we need to be everything to everybody. But in reality, we need to be ourselves and we need to put ourselves first. So, if you are feeling stressed, it could be that you are taking on the stress of others and not focusing on what you need to feel good.

Set realistic goals and expectations.

We’re all busy and it can be easy to take on too much. When setting goals, try to make them SMART. Goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timebound. For example, a great SMART goal would be to get in a 30-minute walk, four times per week, every week.

Practice maintaining a healthy self-esteem.

To work toward a healthy self-esteem, try to become aware of your thoughts and beliefs, challenge negative or inaccurate thinking, and adjust your thoughts and beliefs accordingly. Focus on the great things about you and seek ways to mitigate or improve those areas that aren’t quite what you’d like to see or be.

Let Dr. Cooley Bentz evaluate your TMJ and suggest treatment options.

In addition to practicing good oral hygiene at home, make time to see your dentist every six months. And if you are looking for the best dentist in East Norriton, PA, then look no further. Now is the time to schedule an appointment with Dr. Cooley Bentz. During your visit, she can evaluate your oral health and TMD condition and help determine the best treatment plan going forward. Before long, you will no longer be waking up in pain. With the right treatment for your TMJ disorder, you’ll be getting a better night’s sleep and you’ll wake up ready to take on the day.