According to recent studies from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, upwards of 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ disorders. Although experts are still looking into the exact causes, the habits that aggravate the symptoms (like jaw pain) are well known. So, if you struggle with TMD, keep reading to learn five things that make TMJ-related symptoms worse.
Chewing on sugar-free gum is normally a “do” from your dentist. After all, it helps stimulate saliva production and helps rinse away food particles without exposing your teeth to copious amounts of sugar. If you have TMD, however, then it’s a “don’t.” Not only can the repeated movement needed to chew your gum cause inflammation, but it’s important to allow these joints and muscles to rest as much as possible.
Naturally, eating oatmeal requires much less chewing power than a bagel. Similarly, applesauce is a more manageable snack than pretzels. When you have TMJ-related jaw pain, the last thing you want to do is overwork your muscles, which is what happens when you eat exceptionally hard, sticky, and crunchy foods. So, do your best to stick to softer meals and snacks the majority of the time, like white fish, rice, cooked vegetables, and mashed potatoes.
Do you chew on your pencil while you work? Do you bite on your fingernails when you’re stressed? Do you clench your teeth while working out? These are just a few unhealthy dental habits that can aggregate your symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of your behavior and do your best to quit altogether.
If you naturally favor one side of your mouth when you chew, don’t worry – you’re not alone. While this habit is completely normal, it can stress out one side of your temporomandibular joint, exacerbating your symptoms in the process. To help, try not going on autopilot when you eat. Instead, be intentional about each bite, using both sides of your mouth to chew.
As previously mentioned, clenching your teeth is an unhealthy habit you should avoid, especially if you have TMD. Of course, you may not be aware that you’re doing it. Many patients do it unintentionally as they sleep! One course of action is to work on managing your stress. In the meantime, talk to your dentist about getting a custom mouthguard to wear while you doze.
If you struggle with TMJ-related symptoms, it’s crucial to do your part not to aggravate the joints and muscles of your jaw. Fortunately, avoiding the above habits will help!
An LVI-trained dentist with more than 30 years of experience in the world of dentistry, Dr. Russ Teasdale has extensive experience helping patients with everything from routine checkups to TMJ therapy. Since earning his dental doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis, he has become a Level 1 Certified Dentist at the Center for Neural Occlusion and achieved Fellowship Status in the World Congress of Minimally Invasive Dentistry. If you have a question about TMJ therapy or you’d simply like to schedule an appointment, visit our website or call (503) 966-2528.