Stop the Holiday Headaches

Does the stress of planning for holiday meals, shopping, or arranging to get time off leave you more stressed out than the opportunity of actually anticipating time spent with family? If so, you’re not alone. The headache of the holiday season can make it difficult to enjoy at times. When that stress becomes physical pain, it can get even worse.

Stress, Headaches, and Your Teeth

Did you know that one of the first things people tend to do when they get stressed out is to clench their teeth together? It’s natural and it happens every day. It might be on your commute home from work, while you’re trying to rush into a store for some quick shopping, or just the thought of the holidays in general.

As you clench your teeth tightly together, it strains the joint and muscles surrounding your TMJ (temporomandibular joint.) Consequently, the tension and overuse of that area will lead to chronic headaches, neck and shoulder pain, or sometimes even migraines. Over the long term, it also leads to broken or chipped teeth.

How You Can Help Yourself

When you anticipate holiday headaches from stress, you can take steps to prevent them before they start. One example is to wear a bite splint while you’re sleeping or driving. This prosthesis helps to naturally relax the jaw muscles by disengaging them (preventing them from being able to fully contract) as the upper and lower jaws are gently cushioned away from each other. In certain circumstances, a dentist might also recommend the temporary use of muscle relaxers or over the counter pain relievers.

The Long Term Consequences

Even if your holiday stress will be over within a few months, chronic tension in the jaw joint can cause irreversible damage. In certain cases, badly damaged teeth may need to undergo restoration and rehabilitation before your bite’s calibration is restored.

Orthodontic therapy is sometimes considered a part of a comprehensive TMJ treatment plan, as it can help to establish harmonious biting relationships throughout the mouth, thus relieving pressure to the jaws.

Only in very rare circumstances is surgery recommended. The majority of physical therapy and dental professionals believe that non-invasive treatments are far more successful.

How Can I Know if My Jaw is Causing the Problem?

Some types of TMJ related headaches may result in referred pain in areas that lead you to believe your jaw isn’t involved. The first step is to see your dentist. At Marconi Dental Group in Carmichael, Dr. Alizadeh will palpate your jaw and surrounding muscles to get a feel for their makeup. A panoramic x-ray will allow him to inspect any internal damage to the joint itself, such as that from trauma, overuse, or arthritis.

If a splint or bite guard is your answer to avoid the holiday headaches, all it takes is one short visit to our Carmichael dentist office. After a quick impression, we can have your splint ready within a day or two. The small investment can have a huge payoff!
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