By Last Updated: January 2, 2024

If you are experiencing tenderness, discomfort, or pain in your jaw joints or if your jaws tend to lock, it is likely that you are suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD.

The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. It allows for movement needed for facial expression and for speaking and eating. So, if there is pain in this area, it can be quite hard to go about your daily life.

TMD is a disorder of the TMJ. If you have TMD, it is important that you schedule a visit with your dentist immediately to avoid future complications. Otherwise, you may be doing yourself more damage especially if you have habits that worsen TMJ symptoms.

Carry on reading to learn more about these and what you can do to relieve TMJ pain.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

First, let’s learn about the reasons why you may have TMJ symptoms. There is no singular cause of TMD. It can be because of several causes and the common ones are:

  • Stress
  • Grinding or clenching of teeth
  • Trauma to the jaw, neck, or head
  • Abnormal bite or malocclusion
  • Arthritis in the jaw joint

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

TMJ symptoms vary greatly. Some people may experience just one or two symptoms while others may already have severe complications.

  • Jaw pain
  • Stiffness or tenderness of the jaws
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
  • Facial pain
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Earache
  • Ringing of the ear
  • Jaw popping or clicking
  • Change in the bite

4 Surprising Habits that Worsen Your TMJ Symptoms

If you are already suffering from TMJ disorder, the worst thing you can do is to aggravate the symptoms. You may not know it but some normal, everyday habits may be the ones triggering the jaw pain or discomfort.

You can’t always control the factors that cause TMJ symptoms, such as stress, but you can definitely do something about the triggers. Some of the possible habits that you need to eliminate from your usuals to prevent further TMJ problems are:

  • Using Your Teeth as Tools

As a creature of habit, using your teeth to conveniently open candy wrappers or snack packs may be something that you do every day. It is after all easier to do that than to look for scissors to open your snacks. But, this is a non-functional habit that can worsen your TMJ symptoms.

Non-functional habits are those regular tasks that you unconsciously do using your teeth. This also includes opening an envelope or a bottle and using your teeth to tear tape.

Because the teeth are incredibly strong, they can withstand getting these activities done. However, excessively doing so may place stress on the TMJ. This may hinder your progress from TMD recovery and even aggravate your symptoms.

  • Poor Posture

Yes, posture has something to do with your TMJ. Check your posture now as you read this. If you have rounded shoulders, a forward neck, and anterior pelvic tilt, you may be exacerbating your TMJ disorder.

Posture plays an integral role in your jaw health. That being said, working on improving your posture can positively affect your TMJ treatment.

Try these posture and stance tips to alleviate jaw pain:

  • Consciously relax your shoulders.
  • Distribute your body weight evenly to the front, back, and sides of the feet when standing.
  • Avoid prolonged stay in front of the computer or on your desk. Stand, move around, and do shoulder exercises.
  • Sit up straight or stand tall. Align the ears, shoulders, and hips in one vertical line.
  • Consider investing in ergonomic chairs especially if you have to sit in front of your desk for a long time.
  • Engage in physical activities and exercises that strengthen your back and shoulder muscles.
  • Excessive Consumption of Chewy/Tough Foods

If you suffer from TMJ symptoms or are just recovering from TMD, it is important that you give your jaw a break by avoiding foods that need extra work to chew and eat. 

This includes foods such as:

  • Chewing gum, caramels
  • Tough meat
  • Hard fruits and vegetables
  • Bagels
  • Nutshells

It is also good to cut up your food into smaller pieces to avoid overexerting the jaw. Your dentist may advise a soft diet until your TMJ symptoms have lessened or resolved.

  • Bad oral habits

Some poor oral habits that you may be doing and do not know are causing stress to your jaw joints are:

  • Nailbiting
  • Chewing food on one side of the mouth
  • Teeth grinding

While teeth clenching or bruxism cannot be helped for others, prevention is the trick to avoid heightened TMJ symptoms. Visit Springbank Hill Dental and learn about our options for the management of clenching or teeth grinding such as nightguards.

Treatment for TMJ Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above related to TMJ symptoms, it is important that your visit your dentist as soon as possible. Left untreated, TMD can lead to serious consequences such as severe and persistent pain that radiates up the head and down the shoulder, malnutrition, and even hearing loss.

At Springbank Hill Dental, our treatment for TMJ disorder starts with a thorough assessment with X-rays, scans, and other diagnostic tools. This helps our dentist accurately determine the cause of the problem. Understanding the cause leads to more effective treatment planning.

Some of the recommended treatments for TMJ symptoms are:

  1. Reduce stress with stress management exercises.
  2. Lessen jaw movements that cause unnecessary strain.
  3. Take prescription medications for pain and muscle relaxation.
  4. Learn about physical therapy such as resistance exercises and stretches.
  5. Discuss corrective dental treatment with your dentist for bite and jaw health improvement.

TMJ Symptoms: Takeaway

Pain is one of the most common symptoms of TMJ problems. As soon as you feel pain or discomfort in your jaw, whether small or big, consistent or not, make an appointment with your dentist immediately. With early treatment, we can expect great progress toward better jaw health.

Contact our team at Springbank Hill Dental to learn more about TMJ symptoms and what we can do to help.