TMD or TMJ disorder (temporomandibular joint disorder) is a painful condition that affects many people. There is no known cure and, but there are treatments available to address the symptoms or reduce the chances of the condition worsening. According to Dr. Ryne Johnson, prosthodontist at Newton Wellesley Dental Partners, “While many people have jaw pain and believe it to be TMJ/TMD, this condition should not be self-diagnosed. You could have other jaw issues, so see a dental specialist”.

TMD/TMJ disorder develops because the jaw joint structures have been eroded away or because there is too much stress being placed there. Several habits can increase the stress applied to TMJ. Other than injury or accidents, here are the most common factors that can affect jaw joint health.

1) Clenching your teeth: Notice if you clench your teeth when you’re angry, happy, playful, working out or concentrating. If you’re clenching your teeth, they can feel sore after chewing or at the end of the day or the muscles associated with chewing can be ‘tired’.

2) Grinding your teeth: Many people engage in grinding while they sleep. It’s usually a reaction to stress or a malocclusion. You may experience stiff and sore jaw muscles when you wake up. Your dentist or hygienist may also discover that the surfaces of your teeth are being worn down, this is a clinical sign of grinding and/or clenching.

3) Biting your lip: Believe it or not, habitually biting or nibbling your lips can also produce undue strain in your jaw joint. Physiologically, your jaw joint is not designed to optimally handle the stress that occurs when your teeth bite down in that position. This will strain the jaw joint muscles, and tendons supporting the jaw structures.

4) Chewing gum: Habitual gum chewing can also be detrimental to your jaw joint health. The jaw joint isn’t made to withstand constant sticky chewing for long periods and this will cause it to tire. Some patients have been known to developing clicking in their jaw joint as a result of gum chewing.

These habits cause the jaws and teeth to function incorrectly. If left untreated these issues are likely to lead to significant problems later in life. If you have any questions or concerns about your joint health, visit Dr. Johnson at www.NewtonWelleselyDentalPartners.com, and remember, “See a Specialist…The Difference Will Make You Smile.”