5 Causes of TMJ Discomfort or TMD
The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, joins your skull to one side of your mandible (lower jaw). The general term for what occurs when the joint and/or muscles used for chewing become inflamed, stuck, or painful is temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
TMD typically affects people between the ages of 20 and 40 who have a history of clenching and grinding their teeth (bruxism), dental work, trauma to the jaw or face, increased anxiety or stress, or poor posture. TMD affects more women than men and is more common in women than in men.
Pain in the jaw, ears, face, neck, and upper back are among the symptoms. When yawning, talking, or eating, some patients may experience difficulty opening or closing their mouths, abnormal jaw movement, or popping, clicking, or grinding sounds in the joint.
Daily, social, or occupational activities might be restricted by a symptomatic TMJ. Following are some examples of lifestyle choices that may be linked to TMD or TMJ discomfort:
- Increased anxiety and stress – One of the main causes of TMD pain is increased stress, which frequently results in jaw clenching or teeth grinding. You might want to think about getting more sleep, practicing diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day, working out, taking a yoga class, or just taking a brief break to walk around the office and write down your stress-inducing situations.
- Slouched posture – Because the neck and jaw are closely related, slouching while working at a desk or using a mobile device can put undue strain on the neck’s musculature and cervical spine, which in turn can change how the mandible sits. The condyles of the jaw bone may sink deeper into their joint sockets when the shoulders are rounded, which is frequently the case when the head is positioned forward. The masticatory muscles that help open and close the mouth may have a different length-tension relationship as a result of poor posture. Muscle imbalances and joint misalignment may cause increased joint compression, which could be the cause of pain. Placing a beach towel or handkerchief in the small of your back while you drive or sit at a desk is one way to improve posture. You should take this as a cue to sit up straight and adjust your neck and shoulder alignment.
- Oral habits – A few habits that can cause the TMJ muscles to be overworked and cause microtrauma to the joint or the soft tissues (such as the ligaments, tendons, and muscles) that surround and support the joint include chewing on gum or writing implements, biting nails and lips, and clenching and grinding teeth. Try using a mouth guard at night if you grind your teeth, or try sucking on candy mints instead of chewing gum.
- Diet – Optimal TMJ function depends on healthy eating habits in addition to weight management and proper nutrition. Steak, nuts, stringy vegetables (like celery), and some breads are examples of foods that, despite being healthy, may overstrain or exert excessive compression forces on the TMJ. Large bites that require a wide opening of the mouth can also add strain. Smaller bites or softer food portions may help to lessen discomfort from TMJ overuse.
- Excessive mouth opening – Your mouth should be able to open at least 40 centimeters, or three finger widths. However, yawning, singing, or even laughing can cause excessive mouth opening. Use three fingers’ worth of space or put your fist between your chin and breastbone before opening your mouth to help lessen excessive mouth movement.
OC Sports and Therapy are TMJ Treatment specialists treating patients at our Foothill Ranch, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, or Placential locations. Give us a call 949.716.5050 to learn more!