Temporomandibular joint disorder can cause chronic discomfort in the jaw, and even lead to muscle pain in the neck and shoulders. If you are suffering from TMD, here are some things you can do to minimize the stress placed on the TM joint.
If you are a nail biter, take note of the tension and pain in your jaw when you have been biting your nails. Using your teeth to groom your nails requires the jaw to slide forward in order for your upper front teeth to meet the lower front. In this position, the jaw is used to complete an unnatural motion of ‘clipping’ the nails which can contribute to a feeling of tightness and inflammation in the muscles of the jaw and the TM joint.
What You Can Do
Consider some strategies to assist you in curbing your habit. It may help to consider that as you chew on the nail, bacteria, and debris is introduced into your oral cavity – making nail-biting less appealing. The habit of nail-biting, however, is often unconscious. It may help to enlist the assistance of a manicurist to groom your nails and add a hard layer of shellac in order to deter you from biting them. If a manicurist isn’t for you, consider trimming your nails well, keeping them short and free of distracting sharp edges. Bitter nail polishes are available to make nail biting taste bad, thereby decreasing the likelihood of you continuing the habit. Lastly, it may be helpful to ask those you live with to gently remind you when you have begun to unconsciously nibble at your nails.
Grinding or Clenching
If you wake in the morning to soreness in the jaw and aching in the face and neck, you may be clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep. While grinding your teeth causes unnecessary wear on the tooth surfaces, clenching the jaw tightly while you sleep can lead to just as much discomfort. The teeth rely on supporting structures in the bones, gums, and ligaments that surround their root systems. Grinding or clenching your teeth can place a tremendous amount of distress on these support structures, potentially leading to worn enamel, or broken or chipped teeth.
What You Can Do
Clenching and grinding are often triggered or worsened by stress. Taking care to reduce the stress in your life can benefit your teeth tremendously. This includes taking time for yourself and perhaps seeing a massage therapist to help the muscles in the jaw and neck to relax. Second, seeing your family dentist about a custom-made night guard can help prevent grinding and clenching from damaging the integrity of your teeth and support structures. Your dental practitioner or medical doctor may be able to provide you with a muscle relaxant medication to assist your jaw muscles in relaxing at night and/or anti-inflammatory medication to control inflammation of the muscles in the jaw. Some sufferers of TMD have experienced relief with Botox injections into the TM joint.
Using Teeth as Tools
Many people don’t like to admit how often they use their teeth as tools for tasks. If you suffer with TMD symptoms, you should think twice about opening your pill bottles or your pop bottles with your teeth. Not only do these kinds of activities put you at risk for an injury or break of one of your precious teeth, but this kind of strain on the jaws is likely to exacerbate your TMD symptoms. Using your teeth for non-alimentary interests causes the muscles and the joints of the jaw to be placed under force in unnatural positions. This can cause the muscles in the jaw to respond with increased inflammation and pain in the face and neck.
What You Can Do
If you know you’re tempted to use a canine next time you need a multi-tool, consider investing in a multi-tool that can be carried with you for tasks that require it. When you treat your jaw with care and respect, your chances of managing your TMD related symptoms will increase.
Eating the Wrong Foods
It may seem strange, but many foods we consume daily are not foods of choice for people with temporomandibular joint disorder. While soft foods place relatively little strain on the jaw joint, other foods can place large demands on the jaw in terms of the force required to consume them.
What You Can Do
You will want to skip treats like caramels and toffies. These foods need to be chewed over and over in order to be enjoyed, and they are not nutrient-rich foods. Spare your TM joint the additional aggravation and choose a less demanding alternative. Similarly, consider avoiding hard and crunchy foods like carrots, granola, and popcorn. These foods require the jaw to work overtime and can contribute to the pain you’re feeling throughout the day. With all that said, can you guess the #1 ‘food’ to avoid? Bubblegum. Although it is easy to chew, your jaw will thank you to skip the extra miles you’ve been putting on it in your hours of gum chewing.
If you need more information about TMD contact our dentist in South Edmonton at Viva Dental Wellness.