Chewing gum is a common way to relieve stress, however, constant or excessive chewing can lead to jaw pain and—though rare—the development of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (or TMD).
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located on either side of your head, directly in front of the ear. True TMJ disorder is due to misalignment or physical stress and degeneration of the structures around the joint including the cartilage disk at the joint and nearby muscles of the face, jaw and neck. Common symptoms of TMD include discomfort while chewing, limited ability to open your mouth, popping or clicking sounds when opening, earaches, and headaches.
While constant gum chewing can lead to the development of TMJ disorder, more often it simply exacerbates symptoms associated with the condition. If you’re experiencing jaw pain or TMD-related symptoms, it’s important to educate yourself regarding what TMD is and is not. The good news is that the first course of action for a person who believes they may have TMD is conservative, non-surgical therapies such as rest, muscle relaxers, a soft diet and physical therapy, managed by a dentist and physical therapist.
If your jaw pain may be due to excessive gum chewing, consider limiting your gum chewing and letting your muscles relax. If the pain persists, visit your primary dentist and/or other dentist specializing in TMJ.
If you do not have satisfactory relief and your dentist believes you may be a surgical candidate, Austin Oral Surgery’s team of surgeons is well-trained in every aspect of treating TMJ disorders. For questions, or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 512-686-5682.