Why do I grind and clench my teeth?
Grinding and clenching your teeth is a common sign of an underlying neuromuscular condition involving your jaw and the nerves in your upper neck.
Also known as “bruxism,” clenching and grinding your teeth is often attributed to stress. However, stress is usually only a trigger.
Especially if you don’t notice that you grind or clench your teeth - and the only reason you do know if because your dentist told you about it - have you ever wondered when it happens?
For many people, the clenching and grinding happen when they are sleeping.
And sleep, second only to working on a computer, is one of the biggest factors that affects your neck alignment.
What does the upper neck have to do with why I would grind and clench my teeth?
Many people don’t realise that there is an important physical relationship between your upper neck and your jaw.
For a start, the centre of gravity and axis of motion for your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) is actually located at the junction between the C1-C2 vertebra in your neck.
Your TMJ affects the alignment of your neck, and your neck affects the movement of your jaw.
Second, the neural processing centres that control your chewing muscles are located in your brainstem and descend down to the C2-C3 area in your upper neck. The C1 and C2 vertebrae especially contain physical structures that anchor the bones onto the connection tissue around your spinal cord in order to protect the area.
However, it either the C1 or C2 vertebrae are even bumped even a millimetre from their normal alignment and orbit of flexibility, it may be possible that they produce a physical disruption that affects the way that those processing genres function.
And if there is incoordination affecting the nerves that control your chewing muscles, tension, grading and clenching are all common consequences.
What other symptoms might I have in addition to grinding and clenching my teeth?
The nerve receptors in your upper neck and in your jaw are ultimately processes in the same centres of the brain.
Therefore, it is possible that either your jaw OR your neck could be the real culprit for why you grind or clench your teeth.
Just a few of the other symptoms include the following:
- Clicking or popping of the jaw - Clicking is a sign that something is usually jammed up. It is not uncommon for you to have clicking or popping of the jaw on one side, and then have tension, grading, or clenching on the other side
- Lockjaw - If the tension gets really bad, your brain might cause everything to go into lockdown mode. It may simply start with difficulty or pain chewing. However, if it gets severe enough, you may find yourself unable to open or close your mouth. It may even feel like there is swelling on the side of the face
- Earaches or Tinnitus - Your jaw is literally pressed against the opening in your skull where your external acoustic meatus (i.e., ear hole) and the associated hearing nerves enter. A problem with your jaw, or upper neck for that manner, could impinge or irritate those nerves leading to pain or altered hearing
- Neck aches or Headaches - There are three general categories of nerve receptors in your neck and jaw: 1) nerves that transmit joint position, called proprioceptors; nerves that transmit joint pressure, called mechanoreceptors, and 3) nerves that transmit pain, called nociceptors. If the nociceptors are triggered, they may produce pain anywhere above your shoulders: neck pain, face pain, headaches, or even migraines.
- Dizziness or Vertigo - If the proprioceptors that we just described above are triggered, they may tie into the parts of your brain that process balance information and produce symptoms of dizziness or vertigo. These problems are especially frustrating because you have an MRI, see an ENT or neurologist, but the results of all your tests just say that “Everything is normal.”
- Myofascial Pain - There is a strong associating between the upper neck, TMJ alignment, and chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and other conditions that produce pain or tenderness in the neck, shoulder, and around the ear.
So all of these problems go well beyond grinding or clenching your teeth … and all potentially involving this link between your jaw and your upper neck.
Especially if you experience one or more of these symptoms, if you have never thought before to consider your upper neck, I hope now that you have the information you need to make an informed choice.
Upper cervical chiropractic care, grinding and clenching your teeth
If you have already been to your dentist, you may have been prescribed a splint to wear at night to stop the clenching and grinding of your teeth.
However, if you want to address the underlying cause, it is important to also get a proper assessment of the alignment in your upper neck.
Here is where an upper cervical specific chiropractor may be able to help.
Unlike a general chiropractor, an upper cervical specific chiropractor is someone who has completed advanced studies in the relationship between the upper neck (the C1 and C2 vertebra), the nerve system, the jaw, and the health of your entire body.
Rather than using spinal manipulation, an upper cervical chiropractor uses a quick and light approach to help restore the alignment of the vertebrae in your upper neck with minimal intrusion.
In other words, there is no twisting neck, cracking, or popping!
Upper cervical care is a special division of chiropractic, researched, and developed in the USA but still relatively rare across Australia.
The general procedure first involves and physical and neurological examination to identify if there is a connection between your upper neck and your jaw with grinding and clenching your teeth.
If so, an upper cervical chiropractor will not leave things to chance, but will instead perform sieges of precise diagnostic imagines that show the exact directions and degree of any misalignments in your upper neck.
Because every human being is built differently, it is important to know what your normal alignment looks like first so that any treatment is designed just for you!
And when we know that, we don’t have to “crack” things into place. The purpose of upper cervical care is to restore the alignment so that your body can do the healing, the way it is designed to do.
Upper cervical chiropractor in Brisbane
Our mission at Atlas Health is to help people, who have been dealing with chronic health conditions - including clenching and grinding their teeth - so that they can enjoy the quality of life that they desire most.
Our practice is the premier Upper Cervical Specific Health Centre in Southeast Queensland., We are conveniently located in North Lakes to provide care for the greater Brisbane and Sunshine Coast communities.
Dr. Jeffrey Hannah is our principal upper cervical chiropractic doctor. He is an advanced certified Blair upper cervical practitioner, author, international lecturer, and leader in the field of upper cervical specific chiropractic care.
To find out if we may be able to help you with your clicking or popping jaw, we are happy to offer a 15-minute complimentary over-the-phone consultation with Dr. Hannah to ask any question you might have and so that you can decide if care may be right for you.
Simply click the Contact Us, or give us a ring direct at our main office: 07 3188 9329.
It would be our privilege and honor to assist you.
Atlas Health Australia - “Hope, healing, and wellbeing from above-down, inside-out.”
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