A temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD (sometimes referred to as TMJ), is an uncomfortable condition affecting the joint that connects your skull with your jaw. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, facial pain or tenderness, difficulty opening your mouth wide while chewing, clicking sounds when you chew or move your mouth, a jaw that feels locked in position, and more.
Unfortunately, medical experts don’t know precisely what causes TMD. If you struggle with this condition, however, treatment is available.
TMD may require oral surgery. In many instances, an oral surgeon can make adjustments that relieve TMD symptoms, helping patients to enjoy much greater comfort and improved quality of life.
Although researchers may not be certain what causes TMD to develop in the first place, they have identified behaviors and risk factors that can increase a person’s odds of experiencing symptoms.
That’s why anyone with TMD (or anyone who suspects they may be developing it) should keep the following tips in mind. They can help to reduce the odds of experiencing discomfort. However, just remember to seek treatment. Reducing symptoms isn’t the same as curing TMD. In the meantime, however, TMD patients should try the following:
Focus on Facial Relaxation
Facial tension can lead to or exacerbate TMD symptoms. Thus, it’s important to try and keep your face as relaxed as possible throughout the course of a day. Allow your lips and teeth to remain separate, and if you begin to notice any signs of tension, massage the area around your jaw and temples.
If you’re prone to regular facial tension, teaching yourself to keep your face relaxed may take some time. That’s to be expected. However, if you consistently focus on relaxing your face, you’ll find, eventually, it will come much more naturally.
Don’t Chew Gum
If you’re a gum-chewer with TMD, do your best to switch to a different habit. Chewing gum puts a lot of pressure on your jaw. That can have a substantial negative impact on your comfort levels when you have TMD.
Your jaw needs rest. Give yourself the opportunity to recover by limiting your use of chewing gum. Hard and chewy foods can also have the same effect on your jaw. When prepping meals and buying groceries, remember to avoid foods that will be difficult to chew.
Limit Caffeine if You Grind Your Teeth
Grinding your teeth wears down dental tissues and could cause long-term damage. While this is another problem an oral surgeon can help correct, it’s best to avoid causing damage in the first place.
While everyone should do their best to avoid teeth grinding, it’s particularly important for someone with TMD. Grinding your teeth results in greater facial tension, which will worsen TMD symptoms.
One way to reduce teeth grinding is to limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine and other stimulants can make you grind your teeth more frequently, often without you even realizing it. Although limiting your caffeine intake isn’t enough if you grind your teeth regularly—you still need to see a dental professional and oral surgeon for treatment—it’s another step you can take to relieve TMD.
Improve Your Posture
Maintaining proper posture is good for your overall wellness in many ways. If you have TMD, it can also boost your comfort.
You may be wondering how the way you stand affects your jaw. The connection is more substantial than you might realize. Quite simply, slouching forces your jaw muscles to operate in a less-than-optimal manner. The position of the rest of your body affects the position of your jaw, which affects the way it opens and closes.
Learning to adjust your posture and maintain it naturally is another gradual process. If you’re accustomed to slouching, it takes time to learn and embrace new, good habits.
Don’t let that discourage you. The benefits of improving your posture are worth the time investment.
Don’t Chew Hard Objects
Just as chewing gum or tough foods can put your jaw under a lot of pressure, so can chewing your nails, a pencil, or any other hard objects.
Try to make adjustments if you’re prone to this habit. Along with aggravating your TMD symptoms, biting on hard objects can actually wear down your teeth over time, making you more likely to struggle with a variety of dental issues. As with correcting your posture and learning to relax your face, breaking the habit of absentmindedly chewing on objects may not be easy at first, but you’ll be glad you made the change, particularly when you notice the effect it has on your TMD.
Remember, these tips aren’t a substitute for proper treatment. You should always seek an oral surgeon if you suspect you have TMD. These tips will simply help you stay comfortable in the meantime.