Do You Have Chronic Endometriosis Pain? You Might Need To Visit a Dentist
If you’re struggling with painful endometriosis flares, you may have already booked an appointment with your gynecologist. Have you considered contacting a dentist, too?
How is endometriosis, a condition that starts in and around your uterus, related to your mouth? For many patients, clenching their jaws and grinding their teeth are natural responses to the physical pain and psychological stress they endure during their endo flares. The stress of living with a chronic illness can put your entire body on edge.
How chronic pain can impact your body
When we’re in pain, our bodies may automatically respond by stiffening up our muscles. Even if you’re feeling pain in your abdomen and groin, this fight-or-flight response can impact your entire body: including your jaws.
But when you have chronic pain, you might develop bruxism, which is an unconscious tendency to grind or gnash your teeth. Doctors asked 40 women without fibromyalgia to rate their mouth, tooth, and facial pain in a recent medical study. Fibromyalgia is a condition that, like endometriosis, causes chronic pain.1
The doctors then surveyed 40 women with fibromyalgia. 85% of the women with fibromyalgia clenched and ground their teeth. Over time, bruxism can cause muscle tightness in your neck and, as I found out the hard way, permanent tooth damage.1
As my periods flowed heavier and my cramps felt like a vice grip on my belly, I woke up with a tense jaw. I cut down on sugary snacks and cold drinks because my teeth felt more sensitive.
Chronic pain and oral health
My breaking point (literally) was when I unexpectedly chipped a tooth. When I finally made an appointment with my dentist, he frowned as he looked into my mouth.
“Well, you don’t have any cavities, but I see some stress fissures in your molars. I can tell you have been putting a lot of pressure on your teeth, and you must be grinding your teeth at night. Has anything changed for you recently? Have you been more stressed at work?”
My lifestyle hadn’t changed, but I told the dentist about having some painful health issues.
I didn’t connect my periods and tooth pain until my dentist told me that many of his patients who grind their teeth also live with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
My dentist advised me to purchase a mouth guard to wear when I sleep. After the first week of wearing this guard, I was shocked to see the deep imprints of my teeth cut into the plastic. Ouch!
I still grind my teeth, but now I know how to keep my mouth strong and my jaws more comfortable. I’ve added more calcium and vitamin D to my diet to protect my bones, and I continue to wear a mouth guard each night.
When I’m having a painful period, I remind myself to loosen my jaw and relax my neck.
How to recognize bruxism
I didn’t realize I had bruxism because I was grinding my teeth at night. You may also be confused about the cause of your mouth pain. Some common signs include:
- Waking up with neck and jaw stiffness
- Waking up with tooth pain
- Noticing that you have unexplained jaw tenseness throughout the day
- Tooth sensitivity
These symptoms can also point to many other health conditions, so it’s important to consult with a medical professional who can diagnose the cause of your particular mouth and jaw pain.
People with endometriosis already cope with enough discomfort without bruxism. When we know how to recognize these symptoms, we can take steps to protect our mouths and reduce one extra stressor in our lives.
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