Each time you breathe, swallow, talk, and chew, you’re using your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It’s formed by the articulation of the jawbone and the temporal bone of your skull. The TMJ allows the opening, closing, and side to side movements of your mouth. Some activities and habits can cause or exacerbate jaw pain and dysfunction. This painful condition is known as TMJ disorder, which occurs when your jaw joints become misaligned. Here are the common causes of TMJ flare-up:
Eating Hard Food.
Food items that are too hard to bite or chew can put more pressure on your jaw. This can trigger a TMJ flare-up. It’s best to take small bites and chew slowly. Chop whole foods, and peel and cut fruits and vegetables into bite-size pieces. Opt for moist foods. Also, use sauces or gravies to help moisten foods.
Trauma can also cause TMJ flare-up. Rear-end collisions can result in sudden impact, causing the head to snap in multiple directions. This quick, forced movement can tear the muscles and supporting ligaments within the TMJ. Other sources of trauma include fights that involve a blow to the jaw, fall, and injuries from contact sports, such as football or hockey.
TMJ disorder can also be triggered after dental work. It could happen because of how your jaw is positioned during a procedure or the length of time you had to keep your jaw open. While the effects can vary from one patient to another, it’s best to let your dentist in Worcester, MA know if you are experiencing any strain or discomfort during your appointment.
Stress and emotional factors contribute to TMJ flare-up. Those who have bruxism or a tendency to grind their teeth or clench their jaw excessively are more at risk of experiencing TMJ disorder because of anxiety. When people are stressed out, some clench their jaws and put more pressure on them. People with bruxism tend to clench their jaws for far longer during the day or even at night. This behavior can aggravate the joints causing TMJ.
Other Potential Causes.
Certain habits exacerbate jaw pain and dysfunction. These include constant nail-biting and biting on the back of a pen or other objects. Chewing on unyielding non-food items can cause fatigue on your joint and its surrounding muscles. Other potential causes include misaligned teeth, arthritis affecting the TMJ, tumors, and genetics. Prior surgery in the jawbone or surrounding structures can also be a factor.
Symptoms of a Flare-Up
A TMJ flare-up occurs when you experience new symptoms or your existing symptoms increase in severity all of a sudden. Some of the common signs of a flare-up include jaw pain, throbbing headaches, ear pain, and ringing in the ears. TMJ flare-up may also be indicated by a popping or clicking of your jaw each time you move it to eat or talk and muscle spasms, such as a twitching eye, cheek, or neck. Facial swelling and a tight jaw are also common. So is lockjaw, which happens when you cannot move your jaw until a professional realigns the joint.
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? At Levenson Smile, we can help keep this painful condition from wreaking havoc on your quality of life. Call our office in Worcester, today at (508) 731-3940 to make an appointment.