If Your Jaw Aches in the Morning, Your Teeth are Already in Trouble

Waking up with a sore jaw can make an otherwise pleasant morning a bad one. If you've woken up with this problem at least once, there's a very strong chance that you've been unintentionally hurting your teeth in your sleep. Read on to learn more about why your jaw hurts and what it means for your teeth.

Why the Jaw Aches

For most people, if the jaw hurts when you wake up, it's a sign that you were grinding your teeth in your sleep. There are plenty of reasons why you might do that—you could have had a nightmare, slept in an awkward position, or your teeth may be misaligned in a way that grinding them comes naturally when your jaw is at rest. In any case, unless you've been previously diagnosed with a health condition that induces jaw pain on its own, this is the most likely culprit.

Tooth Grinding Damage

Tooth grinding can cause serious issues for your teeth. Your teeth put up with the stress of eating and biting every day, but they aren't meant to deal with constant pressure for hours on end.

If you grind your teeth, you're likely to start damaging the surface of them. Teeth that undergo this kind of damage on a regular basis can be worn down and chipped away. This can lead to misalignments in your jaw, as your teeth may no longer be level on all sides. With enough damage, your teeth may become sensitive to things like cold and hot temperatures or acidic foods. It can also lead to the enamel of your teeth being so badly worn away that the softer tissues underneath are exposed, which could lead to decay or even root damage.

Getting Help

If you think that you've been grinding your teeth, you should get help from a dentist.

When you visit a dentist for this condition, the first thing they'll do is perform a thorough examination. This will allow them to assess your teeth and to determine if there's significant damage already done.

If damage is found, your dentist may refer you to a prosthodontist for more specialized fitting. The prosthodontist may recommend crowns or other dental prostheses, depending on how much of the inner structure of your tooth has been exposed. However, unless you already have a cavity developing, it's unlikely for you to need any drilling.

Once the damage to your teeth has been repaired, your prosthodontist will likely offer to fit you for a custom night guard. This device fits over the bottom and top teeth and is meant to help provide a cushion. This will ensure that even if you continue to clench your jaw and grind in your sleep, your teeth won't be harmed.

Grinding your teeth is a serious problem, not just something that causes a little irritation and pain in the jaw when you wake up. If you know that you've woken up with this pain at least once, but especially if it's happened repeatedly, get in touch with a dentist as soon as possible to keep it from becoming a severe dental condition.