7 Habits that Can Make TMJ Symptoms Worse

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) can make life miserable. Symptoms like pain, stiffness and difficulty moving the jaw can make talking and eating painful.

TMJ Symptoms Worse

If you have TMJ disorder, the last thing you want is to make the problem worse. Start by ridding yourself of the seven habits that are not only harmful to your oral health, but also have the potential to make your TMJ symptoms worse.

No. 1: Using Your Teeth as Tools

If you need to open a stubborn package or bottle or if you have a jagged fingernail that needs fixing, your teeth are not the right tools for the job.

The force these tasks require puts stress on the jaw joint and muscles, which can aggravate TMJ pain. Take a moment to find the scissors, bottle opener or nail file, and you may save yourself some discomfort.

No. 2: Nervous Chewing

If you’re bored, anxious or stressed, do you gnaw on the nearest pencil or pen?

Any unnecessary chewing taxes the jaw and can exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Nervous chewers often turn to sugarless gum, but that’s not helpful if you have TMJ disorder. Try sucking on sugar-free mints instead.

No. 3: Taking Big Bites

If you have TMJ pain, do yourself a favor and don’t open wide.

Taking large bites can overextend the jaw joint and create an additional source of TMJ pain in the surrounding muscles and tendons. Cut your food into smaller bites to help prevent TMJ symptoms from worsening.

No. 4: Poor Posture

Poor posture strains the muscles of the face and neck, which can lead to more TMJ pain.

Remember what Mom always said and make sure you stand and sit up straight. And if you work at a desk, position your computer straight ahead so you aren’t looking down all day.

No. 5: Sleeping on Your Stomach

To avoid making TMJ symptoms worse, make sure your back, head and neck are in proper alignment when you’re sleeping.

When you sleep on your stomach, you put extra pressure on your jaw. Try sleeping on your back instead, with your head propped up on a soft, supportive pillow.

No. 6: Teeth Grinding

Grinding your teeth is a surefire way to increase TMJ pain.

Get to work on breaking this bad habit ASAP. Otherwise, you could cause significant damage to your teeth, in addition to worsening your jaw pain. For many patients, wearing a mouthguard at night is helpful in stopping the grinding.

No. 7: Runaway Stress

Mental pressure can exacerbate TMJ pain and stiffness.

When you’re stressed, your jaw muscles don’t relax. Tension in these muscles amplifies your pain, which then heightens your stress … which then makes you feel even more tense. To overcome this vicious cycle, exercise, massage, meditation or other calming activities may help manage stress and keep your TMJ symptoms under control.

Working to change your habits can reduce your TMJ pain, but the only way to find lasting relief is through treatment. The professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah can help. Contact one of our three convenient Salt Lake City area offices today to learn more about how to alleviate your TMJ symptoms.