The Daily Grind

sore jaw? avoid these three things

Nurse Nancy walks into Storyville with the complaint of afternoon headaches, limited jaw opening, a sore jaw, and sensitive teeth. The likely cause? Daytime teeth grinding and clenching also known as daytime bruxism.

Sources including Colgate estimate that more than 60% of Americans are active day grinders/clenchers or nighttime bruxers. Are you?

The Big Three of Daytime Parafunction

The three times we habitually clench without being aware are:

Driving: Long, stressful commutes (especially to and from work) can trigger the most intense clenching episodes. Are you a fingernail biter while driving like me? Do you get headaches or eye strain after a greater than 30-minute commute? Practice breathing techniques on the drive. Listen to relaxing podcasts or call a friend or relative to talk your way through the drive.

sore jaw while driving? Many people clench their teeth while driving

Stressful commutes can contribute to daytime teeth grinding and result in a sore jaw!

Screen Time: The average American spends somewhere between 7-10 hours looking at a screen daily. Medical professionals and office staff are especially susceptible to symptoms of late afternoon headaches and/or eye strain as a result of too much screen time. Try putting a sticky note on your monitor as a reminder to take breaks from the screen or set an alarm to trigger the same break time. Your eyes, back, and teeth will thank you for it!

Working with hands: A focused task requires attention. I typically see this issue most often with hairstylists, surgical techs, electricians, etc. The worst case I have seen was that of a stay at home Mom who clenched most of the day while vacuuming or prepping dinner!

Avoid A Sore Jaw With The Jaw Rest Position

The jaw rest position is one where the teeth are slightly separated with the lips together, breathing through our noses. Practice this technique in low-stress situations to call upon when stress builds up. Rarely do we at Storyville advise the use of a protective guard for daily use as awareness of the rest position is key to understanding and breaking the clenching habit.

If your jaw does get sore, try a diet of softer foods, gentle massage/stretch of the jaw muscles, and/or a professional massage. If symptoms aren’t improving in 4-5 days, schedule an appointment for a more thorough evaluation with Dr. Haydel or me. Think your issue may be more related to nighttime grinding (AKA bruxism)? See our next post.

Need more info? Learn more about daytime teeth grinding in this Dr. Oz video!

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