No matter how good your dental hygiene is, there is one problem you may not be able to avoid completely: TMJ disorder, or TMD. The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, connects your skull and jawbone. TMJ disorder occurs when you begin to have repeated pain in that area. It can cover from the cheekbones to the neck, but is caused by the damage which has been done to the joint.
The Real Causes
There are many things that can cause this disorder, including being injured either in the teeth or the jaw, grinding teeth, stress, arthritis, not having proper posture, and even chewing gum. Teeth grinding is very commonly an unconscious thing, and it may only be that you do it in your sleep. Other causes are anything which may bring stress to the joint. Sometimes it is unknown what causes someone to develop TMJ syndrome.
Preventing TMJ Problems
If you’re concerned, you may want to use these tips to help.
- Pay attention to the way you feel. If you have pain in the jaw area, be careful not to chew gum or chew on anything by habit- such as the end of a pencil or your nails. Biting on objects can actually bring on the pain you want to avoid. It stresses the joint and can cause inflammation.
- Take smaller bites when you are eating. This will allow you to use less pressure when chewing.
- Hold the telephone with your hands, not by using your neck or shoulder to squeeze the phone into a hold. You can avoid irritating the joint by avoiding using this position when talking on the phone.
- Massage your head; pay special attention to your jaw, temples, and cheeks. Gentle massage will relax any tension you may experience and help you avoid a flare up of the joint.
- Use moist heat when you feel tense, have a little pain, or have been especially stressed. Apply moist heat to your jaw to help relieve the tension before you run into a worse problem.
- Ask your dentist for advice. If you are a teeth grinder, a professional may be able to give you a splint to use during the night so you can’t grind them in your sleep.
- Practice relaxation exercises. Concentrate on the jaw, neck, and shoulders. This will help you learn how to relax yourself when you feel tension and pain creeping in.
TMJ disorder or TMD can be very painful when it flares up. Pay attention to your warning signs and take the proper measures to make sure it doesn’t get the best of you. Staying as pain free as possible means preventing the symptoms and taking precautions to make sure you are always aware of the ways your body reacts to each preventive measure.
For more information about which foods are great (or not so great) for your teeth, schedule an appointment at one of the Central Dental locations in Arkansas by calling 501-697-4282 or by filling out our online form.