It’s estimated that somewhere close to 10 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ, which causes a wide range of symptoms, including jaw pain, vertigo, and even headaches and migraines. TMJ is an incredibly complex disorder, and although there is disagreement about it’s cause, a new study might point to a list of seemingly harmless habits that can put added pressure on the temporomandibular joint, possibly exacerbating symptoms.

woman biting her nails while reading a paper at home

Chewing Gum, Piercings, and Nail-biting

In a recent study from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, researchers looked at the habits of high school students to answer a question which could help many suffering from TMJ: Do certain oral habits increased the risk of developing TMJ? Specifically, researchers monitored gum chewing, nail biting, and oral piercings in over a hundred high-school students, using a questionnaire on their habits. After the questionnaire was completed, each student underwent a clinical examination of their jaw.

Researchers found a clear link between all three of these oral habits and symptoms of TMJ. Gum-chewers reported difficulty opening their mouth, frequent headaches, and jaw pain; nail-biters reported heachaches, while also showing signs of tooth wear, and even those students with oral piercings had similar symptoms.

Are You At Risk?

Although the study focused on teens, the results can implicate adults, as well. The temporomandibular joint connects to a myriad of nerves, muscles, and tendons, can easily become injured due to overuse or even trauma. Habits like gum chewing can exacerbate damage that already exists within the joint, preventing the body from healing itself.

TMJ can be a frustrating and painful disorder, and eliminating dangerous habits that can worsen symptoms might be your first step to beginning a life without jaw pain. Scheduling a consultation with a dentist who specializes in treating TMJ might be your second step.

Calling in the Expert

TMJ symptoms, pain, and even treatment can vary from patient to patient. What works for one may not work for another. That’s why it’s important to get specialized treatment that caters directly to your symptoms. Your dentist can work with you to provide a treatment plan that’s right for you.

During your first consultation, your dentist will take measurements of your jaw, review medical history, and answer any questions you may have. They then will suggest a treatment plan that can include TENS treatment or a bite splint. Bite splints, specifically, can help to minimize damage done to your teeth due to conditions like teeth-grinding, which has been known to occur in those who suffer from TMJ, as well as putting your jaw in the position to heal itself.

TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn in Columbia, SC has experience helping people with all stages and types of TMJ. They can help you, too. Please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry today to schedule an appointment.