If you’re not a millenial — and haven’t heard the news — the basic gist is: millennials are stressed. Lovingly called the “burnout generation,” millenials are dealing with a student debt crisis, rising living costs, all while making 20 percent less than the previous generation at the same point in their careers. At the same time, they’re bombarded with technological stimulus, and are, in general, getting less sleep. All of these and more seem to be are contributing to a stressed out and anxious generation, and now that seems to be manifesting physically in the form of jaw pain.
What Does Jaw Pain Mean?
According to Mayo Clinic, jaw pain can steam from a number of places, including genetics, arthritis or previous trauma sustained by the jaw. If the pain is left unchecked, it can also develop into a disorder known as TMJ.
Temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly referred to as TMJ or TMD, is an umbrella term used to describe wide-ranging pain which affects the jaw. Most commonly, this manifests as pain in the jaw combined with a limited range of motion in the mandible, but can also take the form of frequent headaches, vertigo, and ringing in the ears. Although there is no research tackling growing rates of TMJ, it’s estimated to affect nearly 10 million Americans. Annedotaly, several dentists who have noticed an uptick in patients complaining about jaw pain and jaw-related symptoms have blamed an increase in stress and decrease in sleep.
Are Millennials More Likely to Have TMJ?
As we mentioned in our previous blog, there is not yet enough evidence to support the claim that millennials are more likely to have TMJ. There is however, a direct relationship between stress and the health of the jaw. Frequent teeth grinding, medically termed, “bruxism,” is generally believed to be caused by added stress or anxiety. While most of us will clench our teeth from time to time in moments of stress, frequently doing this — especially while sleeping — can damage our jaw over time, wear down teeth, and can even cause a malcontusion.
How to Protect Your Jaw
If you frequently catch yourself grinding your teeth, there’s a good chance you’re doing it in your sleep, as well. Overtime, this will wear down your enamel, making your teeth more sensitive to hot and cold, while also leaving them vulnerable to cavities. The best way to prevent tooth grinding is to eliminate stress. But, of course, that’s easier said than done. It’s easy to feel out of control in this day and age, so the next best thing is to schedule an appointment with a dentist who specializes in treating TMJ.
Your dentist can offer several drug-free solutions to stop tooth grinding, heal your jaw, and alleviate many of your TMJ symptoms. One of the most effective treatments is a custom designed mouth splint. Wearing a mouth splint while sleeping can help you to avoid grinding your teeth, while also putting your jaw in a position that allows it to better heal.
Dr. Adam Hahn in Columbia, SC has experience helping people with all stages and types of TMJ. They can help you, too. Please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry today to schedule an appointment.