How often do you chew gum? And when you do, for how long? Chances are, if you’re a fan of gum, once you pop it, you forget to finish and just keep going obliviously. What about your posture or coffee-drinking habits? These day-to-day activities are normal, but if done improperly or without moderation, you can suffer side effects, the jaw being one of the victims. Curious yet? Read on, and let’s teach you about a common jaw disorder called TMD, its cause, and how to remedy it.
What Is TMD?
TMD—Temporomandibular disorders are dysfunctions that affect the facial nerves, jaw and neck muscles, and temporomandibular joints (the sliding hinges that connect your jawbone to your skull). It interferes with the proper functioning of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).
And what is TMJ? This term refers to the joint comprising two bones, the mandible (the jaw) and the temporal bone (the two major joints in the skull). These two joints, aided by muscles, tendons, and supportive anatomical structures of the TMJ, collaborate to allow the jaw to open and close or slide forward, backward, or sideways. The movements facilitate chewing, talking, yawning, and swallowing. Now you understand how gum-chewing comes in?
Understanding TMD’s underlying factors is essential to manage or avoid the condition. Let’s get started!
TMJ in Relation to TMD
Injury or wear and tear of the temporomandibular joints or muscles can cause dysfunctions; these defects—TMD. Its symptoms include:
- Pain in the jaw, side of the head, or temple
- Difficulty chewing
- Jaws that get stuck.
And the pain can extend to other unrelated body parts. For example, the affected joints and muscles can refer the pain to their surrounding connective tissues, causing myofascial pain and other TMD symptoms.
What Can Cause TMD (Jaw Disorders)?
Now, here’s the fun part. Let’s discover the possible causes of jaw pain you may not know. Various factors that cause strain, trauma, and dislocation to the TMJ can cause TMD. Such factors include:
- Psychological Factors: Stress, anxiety, or depression can cause teeth grinding and clenching. These practices excessively strain your jaw muscles and teeth, leading to TMD.
- Caffeine: Caffeine negatively affects the nervous system by triggering jitters, irritability, and fatigue, yielding more stress which causes TMD.
- Congenital Disabilities can cause the TMJ’s abnormal functioning.
- Gum chewing: Prolonged chewing may wear out or damage the temporomandibular joints.
- Braces/Retainers: Braces may create tension, leading to imbalances between the jaws. This imbalance traumatizes the TMJ and may cause pain.
- Trauma: Head injuries can cause trauma to the TMJ, leading to pain, swelling, and other dysfunctions. Further, osteoarthritis can cause arthritis in the jaw, yielding inflammation and restricted jaw movements.
- Fibromyalgia is characterized by extreme fatigue, body-wide muscle and joint pains, and sleep and mood instabilities. Often, fibromyalgia causes myofascial pain in the temporomandibular region.
- Pregnancy: According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMD is more prevalent in women than men. This trend is because of pregnancy-induced TMD that results from:
- Edema on the neck and face
- Increased pressure on joints
- Increased estrogen, which leads to joint laxity
These conditions may cause jaw disorders due to inflammation, laxity, and pressure on the temporomandibular joint area. Therefore, appropriate pregnancy care is vital, starting with identifying a professional medical practitioner. And that’s why our specialists include qualified obstetrics and gynecologists; why not check them out today to find a caring doctor to walk the journey with you?
- Poor Posture: Poor stance can hurt your back and neck, causing misalignment and yielding TMJD issues.
- Mouth Breathing: This is one of the most overlooked problems of TMD.And because we care about your wellness, we must inform you; mouth breathing causes other issues like halitosis and drooping lips. How does mouth breathing cause TMD? Normal breathing pushes your tongue outward and the cheeks inward, generating a natural force for your jaw’s comfort and proper functioning. However, mouth breathing changes the tongue’s innate resting position, exerting more pressure on your upper jaws, resulting in discomfort and pain in the long term.
Bonus Points on Mouth Breathing:
- Mouth breathing can cause bad breath (halitosis). How? It dries your oral cavity denying it of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural lubricant and cleanser.
- Fun fact: Did you know that the tongue rests on the upper pallet against the rules of gravity? Now you know.
What to Avoid Doing if You Have TMD
The best solution is to avoid the triggers; they aggravate jaw disorders by irritating the affected joints more. Therefore, avoid the following:
- Eating chewy foods like taffy or steak
- Taking large bites of foods
- Excessive caffeine
What You Can Do to Help With Your Pain
This treatment uses physical methods to ease the pain. Examples of physical therapy include the following:
- Manual therapy includes joint mobilization exercises, kneading, and muscle manipulation. Physical therapy stretches your jaws and restores your joints and muscle flexibility, enhancing functionality and pain relief. Massaging the TMJ area can also achieve the same benefit.
- Posture Training: Maintaining a proper posture can prevent or ease muscle strain. It improves the resting position of your jaw, head, neck, and shoulders.
- Cardiovascular Endurance: Exercise boosts endurance and produces endorphins acting as natural painkillers, easing jaw and joint pain.
Reducing your stress improves TMJD symptoms. You can manage stress through the following:
- Journaling and meditation to boost your positivity.
- Exercise for improved mood
- Spending time with loved ones
Eat softer foods that are easy on your teeth and jaws. Examples include bananas, mashed potatoes, avocado, and oatmeal, and avoid hard foods like carrots and nuts.
This device positions the jaw, preventing TMD pain from teeth-clenching and grinding.
You may use pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Additionally, doctors may prescribe special treatments like steroids, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound in severe cases.
Referral to a Specialist
For extra special care, a referral to a specialist is advisable. Consequently, you’ll get more attention, a thorough review, and unique services prioritizing your health and urgent relief needs. Please don’t go for over-the-counter medication or self-medication; talk to us for a diagnosis and approved prescription.
If you’re struggling with jaw pain, now you know what could be causing it. You can adopt lifestyle changes and healthy habits to alleviate symptoms or prevent occurrence. Factors like proper posture, sufficient sleep, and voiding prolonged gum-chewing can greatly help. And when in doubt, refer to a medical doctor for professional advice and care. At Waterfront Clinic, we have experienced doctors of physical therapy who can personally deliver quality treatment to improve your pain today!