If you’ve been diagnosed with TMJ, or if you’ve just been noticing pain in the jaw lately, you may already know some things to avoid. You may have given up your morning bagel because it is too chewy, and you’ve stopped chewing gum. Bruxism, grinding your teeth, is also a problem that can lead to jaw pain. But you should also be aware that there may be other habits you have that can make TMJ worse.
What causes TMJ?
“TMJ” is a term typically used to describe pain in the temporomandibular joint (your jaw joint). Besides pain while eating, TMJ can lead to headaches, tenderness in the jaw and face, pain in and around the ear, and even shoulder and neck aches. You may notice a popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth and a feeling like your jaw “locks up.” When you close your mouth, it may feel like your top and bottom teeth don’t align properly. TMJ can be caused by many different things or even a combination of things, such as an injury to the jaw, constantly grinding teeth, genetics, or a connective tissue disease. It can also develop if you are missing a tooth, which allows your other teeth to move around and causes top and bottom teeth to become misaligned.
Habits to avoid if you have TMJ
You already know to avoid chewy and hard foods that cause immediate pain. These are other things to avoid:
1. Bad posture, which puts your muscles out of alignment and can lead to pain in the shoulders, neck, and jaw.
2. Chewing on hard objects such as pencils and pen caps.
3. Using your teeth for things they shouldn’t be used for, such as opening packages.
4. Stress (which is, of course, easier said than done!)
5. Smoking, which can aggravate arthritis, which can make TMJ pain worse.
If you have pain in the jaw, you can try a heating pad on the jaw joint or an over-the-counter pain reliever. If you are constantly in pain, make an appointment at Soft Touch Dentistry for help. Contact the Brighton office at (617) 782-9250 or the Newton office at (617) 332-8146 today!