Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on a woman’s body. Not only is there extra weight to be carried, the weight shifts in the body, forcing adaptations that aren’t always optimal.

Why TMJ Increases During Pregnancy

Why does the risk of temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or sometimes TMD) increase during pregnancy. There are many factors that contribute to an increased risk.

Although this is a happy time, there’s also stress, which can lead to clenching and grinding of teeth–bruxism–that leads to jaw pain, headaches, and tooth damage. Morning sickness can lead to repeated jaw stress. You might experience sleep disruption, including difficulty breathing, which can make you clench your jaw at night to try to keep your airway open–this can also stress the jaw.

The hormone relaxin, which is helping your body’s joints loosen up to deliver the baby, can also cause your jaw joint to relax, making it more likely to dislocate. During pregnancy, you want to avoid taking too many pain medications, but you don’t want to live with this additional pain. Here are some things you should consider when dealing with TMJ symptoms during pregnancy.

Home Care without Medications

For many people, TMJ is a minor, transitory condition. It rises up and gets worse for a while, then it can go away. This is especially true for women who experience TMJ during pregnancy. It may go away after the baby is born, or it may even pass after a couple weeks as your body manages to shift into a better adapted position. To get through this period, try some of the usual home remedies for pain.

Both ice and heat work well for TMJ. Massages can be useful for temporary and transitory TMJ. Ideally, your partner should be able to do this for you, but if not talk to other expectant mothers who might be able to recommend a massage therapist.

Don’t forget to relax your jaw as much as possible. Cut out hard-to-chew foods, and try to control bad habits that contribute to TMJ, such as chewing gum, biting fingernails, and chewing on pens or pencils. Don’t lean on your jaw. Also, if you haven’t switched to side sleeping yet, maybe now is the time–it can reduce stress on your jaw.

Getting the Right Nutrition

Again, part of the problem is that your body is giving nutrients to your baby. Calcium deficiency is sometimes associated with muscle pain in general and TMJ specifically. Talk to your doctor about your nutrition intake and see what you might want to increase–and what you can increase safely.

Dark Delights

Caffeine and chocolate have both been shown to help some sufferers of TMJ. Chocolate is supposed to lead to happy babies, anyway, so why not? However, some people experience the opposite. If you find that your daily caffeine regimen is making you clench your jaw, cut back rather than increase it.

If TMJ Persists

You might be willing to deal with TMJ temporarily, but if it persists for the duration of your pregnancy, you might experience significant damage to your jaw joints or teeth. If home care doesn’t get rid of TMJ, you should seek professional assistance.

Many women also find that TMJ is one of the consequences of pregnancy that doesn’t go away. If you find yourself in this situation, the sooner you seek help, the better for you and your children.

If you’re concerned for your health during pregnancy, please call (803) 781-9090 to schedule an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.