TMJ Disorder and Alcohol

At the risk of raining on anyone’s parade or being a party-pooper, I have to raise the fact that, if you are a drinker – even a light drinker, there is a strong possibility that your TMJ problems may stem from, or be increased by, alcohol use. And not just alcohol use, even caffeine and nicotine can exacerbate your grinding and clenching problems.

Alcohol’s Effect on TMJ Disorder

There is a great deal of speculation that alcohol affects one’s tendency to grind and clench because, in general, alcohol interferes with one’s sleep patterns. Regardless of how deeply you think you are sleeping after imbibing, studies indicate that alcohol only acts as a sedative in the early hours of sleep. Later, in the sleep cycle, sleep can be disturbed.

Anyone who has tippled before bed knows that they often feel fatigued upon awakening, despite how many hours they may have “slept.” This is because the deep cycles of sleep are shortened – or missed altogether – when one drinks in the hours before bed.

Numerous studies indicate that grinding intensifies and that people clench more after alcohol consumption.

Nicotine and Caffeine

Smokers, soda drinkers and coffee drinkers also have a tendency to clench and grind more than their non-smoking, drinking counterparts. Nicotine and caffeine act as stimulants to the nervous system. Over stimulation during the day may give one a sense of energy and alertness, sometimes even anxiety. Indeed, often one’s blood pressure surges with even these mild stimulants. When one is sleeping, however, this excess nervous energy may be released in undesirable ways…such as clenching and grinding. Sleep itself may be disturbed and agitated, with deep cycles being shortened. This in turn contributes to clenching and grinding.

Other Drug Effects

Drugs, prescription and otherwise, can affect people in unanticipated ways. For example, prescription drugs for depression can cause clenching/grinding, as can over-the-counter products that treat cold symptoms. Read labels carefully. If the product raises blood pressure, causes dizziness, nervousness, sleeplessness etc. as a side effect, it may well contribute to nocturnal clenching and grinding.

Be kind to yourself. Skip the vino and after dinner coffee and cigarette and instead take a walk, focus on your breathing while walking and have a small glass of (ice) water when finished.