“Oh, I have TMJ, I can’t open my mouth very wide.”
Does this sound familiar? Your “TMJ” (temporomandibular joing) is a joint just like any other in the body…everyone has one, and it can become sore from time to time. When there’s an actual disorder associated with the joint, we usually refer to it as TMJD or TMD (temporomandibular disorder.)
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can limit the ways TMJD impacts you in your everyday life. It all boils down to identifying the causes behind it. Here are a few of the most common:
Crooked Teeth and TMJ
Misaligned teeth don’t function efficiently. As a result, your jaw has to make atypical movements to bite and chew your food effectively. The strain can add up!
Stress and TMJ
It’s fairly common for people to clench their teeth when stressed out from work, school, or just life. You could be doing it on your commute home or even during the night. The first sign to watch for is soreness right when you wake up, or headaches when you drive
Sleep Apnea and TMJ
When your brain is struggling for oxygen due to a sleeping disorder, it can cause muscle tension through your jaws and teeth. Have your dentist check for excessive signs of wear, or consider getting a take-home sleep study.
Excessive Chewing and TMJ
Do you find yourself chewing gum all day long, or forcing your way through firmer foods like steak? Back it off a bit. Put the gum away and stick to softer foods for a while to see if things improve.
If you don’t find your symptoms subsiding, be sure to see your dentist. He or she may recommend a splint to wear when you sleep, refer you to an orthodontist, or advise a specific type of medication for short-term relief. An x-ray and exam are one of the best places to start when it comes to seeing what’s going on inside of your TMJ. Schedule one today!