Pregnancy is a pure undisputed miracle. However, along with the knowledge that you are carrying your new bundle of joy come several less than pleasing side effects that can accompany your next nine months. One of the less pleasant potential side effects of pregnancy can be teeth clenching and other TMJ disorders otherwise known as TMD (Temporomandibular Dysfunction or Disorders).
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.
There are many potential reasons why you may be experiencing an increase in your teeth grinding or even TMD for the very first time. Although pregnancy is a happy time, there’s also loads of emotional, physical, and mental stress, which can lead to clenching and grinding of teeth that leads to jaw pain, headaches, and tooth damage.
Additionally, the hormone relaxin, which is helping your body’s joints loosen up to deliver the baby, can also cause your jaw joint to relax, making it more likely to dislocate. Relaxin can also contribute to your teeth moving and shifting, leading to a more uncomfortable bite and increased teeth grinding. It is important to see your dentist if you feel pain in your teeth, gums, or jaw.
During pregnancy, you want to avoid taking too many pain medications, but you don’t want to live with this additional pain. Here are some things you should consider when dealing with TMD symptoms during pregnancy.
Nutrition and diet
Part of the reason why you are experiencing TMD or teeth grinding is that your body is giving nutrients to your baby. Calcium deficiency is sometimes associated with muscle pain in general and TMD specifically. Talk to your doctor about your nutrition intake and see what you might want to increase–and what you can increase safely.
Getting a mouthguard when you have TMJ/ TMD is the equivalent of getting a knee brace when you sprain or strain your knee. It is an absolute must! You can pick up a mouthguard at your local pharmacy or you can visit your dentist and have one made for your teeth and with your specific TMJ/TMD symptoms in mind.
Pregnancy safe massage and acupuncture
Nothing feels quite as good as a jaw massage when you are experiencing jaw tightness and pain! Acupuncture has shown to provide massive relief to those suffering from TMJ/TMD. Make sure to check in with your primary care physician and your OBGYN before receiving any massage or acupuncture therapy. Additionally, clearly state to the massage therapists that you are pregnant.
Last but certainly not least is something you can work on by yourself. TMD and teeth grinding are often a byproduct of intense stress and anxiety. Make an effort to ease yourself into sleep at night by listening to guided meditation, reading a good book, or taking a relaxing bath. Keep in mind that you are doing an incredible job at carrying your little one and you deserve a break!