TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder is an umbrella term used to describe dysfunction located in the muscles, bones, and joints of the jaw system. This dysfunction can cause pain in the jaw, head, and neck, but can also manifest in several different ways, including frequent headaches, tingling fingers, and tinnitus. Known more so as a collection of symptoms rather than an agreed-upon condition, TMJ can be difficult to understand and treat, making those suffering from its effects feel out of control.

For those having trouble understanding their condition, here are five things you should know about TMJ.

Be on the Lookout for Bruxism

Known as the medical term for teeth grinding, bruxism usually occurs during sleep as a result of anxiety or stress, and many with the condition have no idea they have it. Although an underlying cause of TMJ has yet to be determined (if there is one), bruxism is known to exacerbate TMJ symptoms and pain by putting added stress on the jaw system. Treatments such as wearing a mouthguard while sleeping have been known to lessen TMJ pain.

Reducing Stress May Help

As bruxism is often related to stress or anxiety, reducing this stress could help to alleviate some TMJ symptoms. Finding ways to cope with stress such as exercise, mindfulness techniques like meditation or yoga, or counseling, might be the trick you need to help with outbreaks.

Careful What You Eat

As with a broken arm or sprained ankle, your body needs time to heal. Your jaw system is no different. When your symptoms are at their worst, being careful what you eat can help. Avoid foods that require an extended range of motion, such as apples, or foods that are hard or chewy, such as steak. If you have experienced TMJ symptoms in the past, chewing gum should be avoided entirely.

Changing Your Habits Could Help

Like many conditions, much of the pain experienced from TMJ can be attributed to inflammation, and habits such as smoking, ingesting caffeine, or using tobacco could be exacerbating inflammation that already exists. Diets high in sugar, starch, or dairy are also known to cause inflammation, and could be worsening your symptoms. Anti-inflammatory foods containing turmeric and omega 3 fatty acids could help control pain.

Headaches May be a Symptom

While many patients are familiar with the trademark symptoms such as lockjaw, limited jaw motion, jaw sounds, or muscle soreness, others might not think twice about frequent headaches, especially tension headaches. As many patients experience different symptoms, this is understandable, but if you’ve been having headaches more and more, it may be time to seek help. People whose headaches increase in frequency are highly likely to have TMJ.

If you suffer from regular headaches or other TMJ symptoms and want to learn about treatment options that can reduce or eliminate your pain, we invite you to talk to Dr. Adam Hahn. Please call (803) 781-9090 for Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today to schedule an appointment today.