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Have TMJ Disorder? Stop Doing These 6 Things

October 31, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — dthouston @ 2:28 pm
Woman chewing on pencil, a bad habit for people with TMJ disorder

TMJ disorder, also known as TMJ dysfunction or simply TMD, is a common problem that afflicts the joint connecting the lower jaw to the rest of the skull (called the TMJ). TMD can cause chronic jaw pain and a number of other unpleasant symptoms. If you believe you have this condition, you should certainly seek out professional care. In the meantime, you may be able to find a degree of relief by adjusting your daily habits. Here are six activities you should avoid in order to reduce your TMD discomfort:

Chewing Gum

For most people, chewing on sugar-free gum is harmless. In fact, it can even be beneficial for oral health. Unfortunately, though, it is not an advisable activity for people with TMD. The muscles around your TMJ are already overworked and sore. Subjecting them to extra stress by chewing gum is likely to worsen your symptoms.


Poor posture is commonly cited as a cause for all sorts of aches and pains throughout the body. The jaw and nearby muscles are not exceptions to the rule. The TMJ functions and feels best when you are upright, with your head positioned correctly at the top of your spine. Try to train yourself to keep your shoulders back and your head up. Also, keep in mind that poor posture may result from spending too much time looking down at an electronic device. You might need to change the way you hold your phone while you are reading or scrolling through social media.

Eating Hard Foods

Just like chewing gum can overwork the TMJ, so can eating hard or extremely chewy foods. Try to stick to mostly no-chew items, or things that are easy to cut with the side of a fork. Here are some examples of foods that are unlikely to exacerbate your TMD symptoms:

  • Pudding
  • Soup
  • Smoothies
  • Well-cooked vegetables
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Meatloaf
  • Pasta
  • Soft breads

Resting Your Head on Your Chin

When you are watching TV, studying, or suffering from a bout of boredom, do you often rest your head on your chin? Doing so may place excess pressure on your TMJ. It even has the potential to cause the joint to slip out of place, which can worsen pain and other symptoms.

Chewing Food on Only One Side of Your Mouth

Is It your custom to automatically shift food to one side of your mouth when you chew food? This can create an uneven workload for the sides of your TMJ, leading to worsened TMD symptoms. Try to distribute food evenly throughout your mouth. If tooth pain is causing you to chew on only one side, you should see a dentist to learn about your treatment options.

Non-Functional Jaw Activities

Non-functional jaw activities include any use of your jaw that does not help you to eat or speak. For example, chewing on pencils and biting your fingernails fall into this category. These habits can increase stress on your TMJ and lead to heightened discomfort.

TMD sufferers should always seek professional care. However, your daily habits can also have a large bearing on how your jaw functions and feels!

Meet the Practice

Under the leadership of Dr. Chris Johnson, the team at Downtown Houston Dental offers a wide range of services, including TMJ therapy. If you are suffering from persistent jaw pain, our team is ready to assist you. Contact us at 713-229-8100.

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