Why am I Waking up with Jaw Pain in the Morning?

TMJ (Temporal Mandibular Joint)

Pain Among the most common, irritating and difficult to diagnose problems with head and neck pain are temporal mandibular joint problems, more commonly known as TMJ problems. The joint is located near the ear, where the top of the mandible or lower jaw meets the upper jaw at the base of the skull.

Like all other joints in the body, the TMJ is subject to inflammation and other chronic joint problems.  What makes TMJ problems difficult to diagnose and treat properly is the fact that the symptoms vary widely in both location and severity.  Symptoms can include:

  • Clicking of the jaw
  • Irritation of the joint near the ear
  • Pain in swallowing
  • Pain on chewing
  • Headache
  • Neck Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Difficulty in opening of the mouth

Treatment for Temporal Mandibular Joint pain is aimed at relieving pressure on the joint itself.  Many people experience jaw pain in the morning when they wake up.  While sleeping, many people clench their teeth or grind their teeth, which is also known as bruxing.   These habits cause extreme pressure on the joint which leads to inflammation, pain and the chronic degradation of the joint itself. The goal of TMJ treatment is to relieve this constant pressure on the joint. 

The simplest method is the use of a nightguard.  The dentist will take an impression of the patient’s teeth and have a laboratory fabricate a nightguard.  This nightguard may be made of a soft or hard material and may be designed to fit over either your top teeth or your bottom teeth.  When worn overnight, this nightguard does not allow the patient to bring their teeth together.  This relieves all of the pressure from the joint.  When worn continuously, the inflammation in the joint is reduced and in many cases all symptoms may disappear.

While a patient has TMJ pain, the dentist will also, in many cases, recommend the use of anti-inflammatories and may restrict the patient to a soft food diet.  In addition, the patient will be told to refrain from activities that cause him to open his mouth widely as this also causes pressure on the joint.

While a simple nightguard may relieve symptoms in many cases, more severe TMJ problems require more complex treatment including, in more severe cases, surgical intervention.