Thanksgiving is the closest that most of us come to a competitive eating competition. There are few days of the year where we’re all encouraged to consume such a large quantity of food all at once. And that’s why many people experience jaw pain from such a prolonged period of eating and chewing.

If you experience jaw pain on Thanksgiving, don’t just blame it on the fact that Aunt Ellen dried out the turkey again this year–take it seriously.

Your Jaw Should Be Able to Handle Foods

At first, many people try to explain away jaw pain as being the fault of the food. Sure, dry turkey can make you chew harder and longer than you’re used to, but your jaw should be able to handle it. Our ancestors spent half their waking hours chewing, so, even if we eat a lot more processed and cooked foods, our jaw should still be capable of chewing most treats dishes that find their way to the table, whether it’s soft as spoonbread or chewy as that dry turkey.

Your teeth and jaw should work harmoniously together to apply good crushing, tearing, and cutting force to foods. But if they’re not working together harmoniously, a workout like you might give them on Thanksgiving can definitely result in some recognizable symptoms that there’s a problem.

TMJ Symptoms to Watch for

Jaw pain and soreness is just one of the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) you might notice after vigorous chewing all day on Thanksgiving. You might notice that your teeth don’t seem to come together right. If your teeth don’t want to find a comfortable rest position in the afternoon like they had in the morning, that could be a sign of a problem.

Jaw popping and clicking is another symptom that sometimes arises after significant jaw exertion on Thanksgiving. This is a symptom of what is essentially a dislocated jaw, and shows that your jaw problems are bad and likely to get worse.

You might also develop a headache in the evening. Of course, the headache could be related to dehydration, stress, or other causes, but it may also be related to jaw dysfunction.

Even if Thanksgiving is the first time you’ve noticed any problem with your jaw, it likely won’t be the last. To learn whether TMJ is to blame for your jaw pain, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.