TMJ problems and how you can prevent them

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ or TMD, is a far more common problem than many people realise and they may not even know they have it.

TMJ refers to the area on your mouth that allows your jaw to move. Conditions such as migraines and headaches, facial pain, neck, shoulder and backache can all be caused by TMJ disorder.

A common symptom of TMJ disorder is clenching your teeth during the day and grinding them at night, also known as bruxism. This can lead to your teeth becoming worn, and if this happens in conjunction with migraines and shoulder pain, you may want to turn to your dentist for help.

First, it is important to understand what the TMJ is. The first thing your dentist will do is to try to establish the cause of your TMJ disorder and associated discomfort. The condition has a wide range of causes, including stress, injury, changes to your bite etc.

One of the most common treatments is to wear a mouthguard at night. These hard plastic guards are similar to sports mouthguards and prevent the surfaces of your teeth from grinding together while you sleep.

Another option is physical therapy where a trained therapist can show you exercises that will help to strengthen, stretch out and massage tight muscles surrounding your TM joint.

To prevent temporomandibular disorders in general, try to reduce muscle tension in your jaw. You can reduce muscle tension in these three ways:

  • If you have a lot of stress and anxiety in your life, try relaxation techniques. Do not overuse and stress your jaw muscles.
  • Learn to recognise when you are clenching your teeth.
  • Eat softer foods, and use both sides of your mouth to chew your food.

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