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Habits That Won't Help TMJ Disorders

Man With TMJ
The joints in your jaw should move freely without pain. But when you experience tenderness, aching, or difficulty chewing, it's clear that something isn't right. It’s possible that you have a TMJ disorder. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) can result in serious chronic pain.

While there are plenty of dental patients who never know the true cause of their disorder, arthritis, an impact injury and connective tissue diseases can set-off TMJ or worsen issues with the joint. Along with receiving expert treatment from your dentist, understanding the most common habits that amplify TMJ disorders can help you to avoid jaw pain.

How can you reduce the effects of TMJ disorder? Take a look at the not-so-helpful habits that can escalate your symptoms.

Teeth Grinding

Whether you're nervous about an upcoming event, are having a difficult day at work, or have something else weighing on your mind, stress can come out in physical ways. Along with various aches and pain, habits such as teeth grinding or jaw clenching are often the result of anxiety or another type of mental or emotional distress.

Some patients who grind their teeth are well-aware of the noise and associated issues that come with this habit. They may hear the grinding, noticeably feel the motion as they grind or notice dental injuries, such as cracks or chips. But that doesn't mean you'll realize that you're a grinder right away. Not all teeth grinders or jaw clenchers are fully aware of this habit — especially when they're under extreme stress. Your dentist can diagnose grinding based on examining the surfaces of your teeth.

Keep in mind that teeth grinding and jaw clenching behaviors may not be the root cause of your TMJ disorder. But those habits may increase the soreness or pain that you experience with an existing disorder.

Nail Biting

Gnawing on your nails is another stress-related habit. While some people consciously bite their nails as a trimming method, others engage in this habit without even realizing it.

Again, like with teeth grinding, nail biting on its own won't cause a TMJ disorder. But when combined with an existing problem, the constant biting and chewing motion can put stress on an already achy jaw joint.

Filing or trimming your nails often can help you to stop biting. If it's still a problem, you may need help alerting yourself to this behavior. Try wearing gloves for a day to make nail-biting more noticeable or ask a friend or family member to let you know when they see you biting.

Pencil Chewing

Like nail biting, biting a pencil, pen, or other writing tool can also add pressure to your already tired jaw. This nervous or stress-related habit, like many others, is something that many people do without thinking about it. Chances are that you won't even realize the serious nature of your chewing issue until you look at your pencil and see the teeth marks.

Similar to nail biting, pencil chewing involves near-constant movement of the mouth. Think of this as a minutes or even hours-long workout for your jaw. While it isn't the root problem behind your TMJ disorder, it certainly won't help your jaw to heal.

Mouth Tearing

Tearing or cutting open objects with your mouth puts pressure on your jaw. Beyond that, it can also force your jaw into an unnatural or uncomfortable position. When added to an existing TMJ disorder, this can cause acute pain or chronic joint fatigue. Always avoid tearing or opening bags, packages, or anything else with your mouth.

Do you need help handling a TMJ disorder? Contact Gregg Dentistry for more information.