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5 Common Causes of TMJ Flare-Ups
For many patients with a TMJ disorder, the issue tends to come and go, presenting as a flare-up that gradually subsides in a few days. People with more severe cases and persistent pain or swelling may need professional treatment to maintain jaw function and a better quality of life. Home treatments and remedies can be used to relieve mild to moderate pain while certain preventative measures can help reduce the number and frequency of these flare-ups.
Understanding TMJ disorder
The temporomandibular joint is located just in front of each ear and allows the jaw to open and close. When persistent pain, swelling, stiffness, or popping occur, a patient may be diagnosed with a TMJ disorder. Various reasons a person may develop this condition include:
- Improper joint formation or growth
- Lifestyle choices
- Trauma to the jaw or surrounding area
- Problems with arthritis
- Habitual bruxism, or clenching and grinding of teeth
An evaluation by a dental professional is required for an accurate diagnosis.
Causes of TMJ flare-ups
While there are several reasons a patient can experience sudden or severe jaw pain, inflammation and overworked muscles tend to be the most common causes of TMJ flare-ups. Many physical changes and lifestyle habits can contribute to swelling around the joint and muscle tension.
The negative impact of stress on the body is a serious issue in today's society. When a person experiences a stressful situation, the natural physical responses can result in TMJ problems. Increased muscle tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and head can lead to the painful swelling of this joint. Clenching or grinding teeth and lack of sleep, which are common side effects of increased stress levels, can also make matters worse.
2. Poor posture
Improper alignment can cause headaches, back pain, and, in some cases, TMJ pain. If a person has bad posture, this can lead to a misaligned spine and a protruding jaw. Those who spend much of their day sitting, especially in a car or at a computer, are more prone to posture and alignment issues.
3. Eating habits
Those with a TMJ disorder should avoid eating too many tough, hard, or chewy foods. The pressure and muscle fatigue caused by excessive chewing and exaggerated movements can lead to painful flare-ups. Patients should stick to a diet of softer foods, take smaller bites, and avoid chewing gum to prevent symptoms from worsening.
4. Hormonal changes
A sudden increase or decrease in hormone levels can lead to joint inflammation. This includes the jaw, so patients who experience hormonal changes may notice pain and swelling in this area. This is particularly true for women, who experience estrogen and progesterone fluctuations throughout adulthood.
All joints and muscles of the body need sufficient hydration to maintain necessary lubrication and function. If a person is not drinking enough water, pain and inflammation of the joints and muscles, including the temporomandibular joint, can occur.
While a TMJ disorder can develop for any number of reasons, many everyday occurrences can lead to sudden flare-ups. By understanding the most common causes of symptom outbreaks, patients can take preventative measures to help keep pain and inflammation at bay.
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