Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome, more commonly known as TMJ, is a disorder that affects the joints that connect your jaw bone to your skull. These joints are your temporomandibular joints, and they can become damaged or pained due to a variety of causes. TMJ can cause pain in your jaw when you eat, yawn, or just at any time. It can also cause headaches, a locking of your jaw, toothaches, sore face muscles, clicking or popping of your jaw when you open your mouth, and/or earaches. Some factors that have been attributed to potentially causing TMJ are:
- Grinding of Teeth
- Misalignment of your teeth or jaw
- Injury to jaw or neck
- Stress (that causes you to clench your jaw or grind your teeth)
- Gum chewing
- Poor posture
As you can see, some of these potential causes are things you can work to avoid or fix, while others—such as arthritis—are not necessarily things you can completely control. One of the first prevention treatments you can do, however, it to start by being aware. Notice when or if you are clenching or grinding your teeth. If you are grinding your teeth at night, look into getting a sleep guard. If you are stressed, pay attention to your facial muscles and try relaxation techniques.
You can also work to improve your posture, and avoid eating too many hard or chewy foods, such as gum or bagels. While none of these things can assure that you will not get TMJ, they can certainly help with prevention of some of the more common attributing factors, which can decrease your risk. Start by being aware of things such as teeth grinding and jaw clenching, when they tend to happen, and then work to insert calming mechanisms into your daily routine to decrease those occurrences.