A Guide For Parents
I’m a dentist who focuses exclusively on treating people who suffer from jaw, tooth and head pain due to what’s commonly known as TMJ. Some of my patients tell me that they grind and clench their teeth all night, called sleep bruxism. Some tell me they clench all day, called awake bruxism.
Millions of people, in fact, suffer from bruxism and as a result, many experience jaw pain, headaches, toothaches, and ear pain.
A surprising trend was uncovered during a recent review of my patient roster. We have seen a significant increase in young patients (between the ages of 16 and 25) who arrive at my office with complaints of a headache, intense jaw pain, and or daily facial pain.
Why do so many young people experience jaw and facial pain problems? What puts their jaw muscles and TM joints so at risk? Here are the nine most common risk factors:
9 Causes Of TMJ Problems In Teens & College Students
- Screen-Related Activities: Countless hours with the head down while studying, playing video games, surfing the web, using social media, texting, etc. Neck tension is the result and is a risk factor that can prompt jaw problems.
- ADD/ADHD Medications: These medications are stimulants, and although they’re usually taken early in the day, the effects often linger well into the evening. Stimulants, in general, tighten muscles and the jaw can be impacted.
- Caffeine: Overconsumption and/or frequent consumption of coffee, Red Bull, or other high caffeine beverages keep the heart rate up and adrenaline pumping. Muscles are therefore at risk to maintain high levels of tension.
- Nicotine: Another stimulant now consumed in high milligram doses in nicotine e-cigarettes which are popular mainly with college students, and young college grads. One vape cartridge apparently holds as much nicotine as three packs of cigarettes. Nicotine is a stimulant and can increase muscle pain.
- Breathing Problems: Persistent allergies, sinus problems, and asthma often disrupt sleep and are associated with bruxism.
- Airway Problems: Airflow can be blocked during sleep due to large tonsils, weight gain, or oral/jaw anatomy. Fragmented sleep has been associated with sleep bruxism.
- Pain: Chronic pain is a significant source of sleep disruption. Neck and back pain and gastrointestinal pain can often fragment sleep, predisposing to more sleep bruxism activity.
- Daytime Habits: Daytime habits such as nail and cuticle biting, pen chewing, excessive gum chewing, lip and cheek biting, and teeth grinding and clenching. All these behaviors can fatigue jaw muscles.
- Anxiety & Psychological Disorders: Young patients often struggle to cope with life’s challenges and experience ongoing anxiety, which can lead to the onset of jaw tension and pain.
What’s A Parent To Do?
If your child complains about facial or jaw pain and you can say “Yes!” to at least two of the common risk factors listed above, it’s important to do something about it before it gets worse.
If you live in the New York metropolitan area, I invite you to make an appointment for a consultation at my office. We are thorough, compassionate and have many tools at our disposal to help your child.
If you are located outside the New York area, you can find a practitioner in near you on the website of The American Academy of Orofacial Pain. Choose a doctor who is listed as Diplomate.
I welcome your questions and comments.
Pain issues and sleep challenges do not have to be lifetime afflictions. You need someone who listens and possesses the knowledge and compassion to get your pain and sleep problems under control.
I am that someone – and you’re in the right place.
Dr. Donald Tanenbaum, DDS MPH