young man feeling pain holding his cheek with hand

Constant headaches and pain in the jaw may be a sign that you have TMJ. Your dentist can help to determine if you have TMJ and what can be done about it – in the meantime, you should be aware of some things you may be doing (without even realizing it) that can make your TMJ worse.

What causes TMJ?

“TMJ” is a catch-all term for pain in the temporomandibular joint (the jaw joint). It may be caused by genetics, a connective tissue disease, an injury to the jaw, or by constantly grinding teeth. It can also result when you are missing a tooth, which causes your other teeth to move around, after which your top and bottom teeth become misaligned. It may even be caused by a combination of these things.

You may have TMJ if you notice a popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth, and some patients may feel like their jaw locks up at times. You may have headaches, ear pain (and pain around the ear), and even neck and shoulder aches.

Avoid these things if you have TMJ

You probably already realize that your jaw pain increases when you chew gum or if you have food that is chewy, such as a bagel. Besides avoiding gum and chewy and hard foods, here are some other things to avoid:

• Chewing on hard objects such as pens and pencils

• Using your teeth as tools, such as for opening packages

• Bad posture, which can cause the muscles in your upper body to become misaligned and increase pain in your shoulders, jaw, and neck

• Smoking – studies have shown this can aggravate arthritis, which can make jaw pain worse

• Stress – this is, of course, easier said than done, but finding ways to deal with stress is good for your overall and mental health besides the pain in your jaw!

If you are having constant jaw pain, Arlington Dental Aesthetics in Arlington or South Riding Smiles in South Riding can help. Call the Arlington office at (703) 214-3183 or the South Riding Smiles office at (703) 214-3185 for an appointment today!

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Have a question? Reach out today!

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