“I’ve got TMJ.” It’s a pretty common statement which is actually a bit of a misnomer.
Everyone has TMJ. Why? The TMJ is the tempo-mandibular joint(TMJ). We all have it. What people are probably trying to say is that they have TMJ disorder, aka pain and dysfunction of the jaw while opening or closing your mouth.
What happens is the mandible (your jaw) connects to the rest of your head at the temporal bone. It’s a hinge joint that pivots through a cartilage disc called a meniscus in between the two bones of this joint. Unfortunately, it’s a common place for the TMJ to become subluxated or in other words, a little bit dislodged. After that, you can get overuse and degeneration of that joint. One way to tell if you have this disorder is to open your mouth and measure, can you open your mouth the height of 3 fingers for your hand? If not, you might have TMJ disorder.
The main physical causes of this condition are:
- overuse from a commonly chewing on one side of your mouth
- keeping the mouth open for extended periods of time (like at the dentist)
- improper bite
What To Do If You're Struggling
From a physical standpoint, the best way to prevent TMJ disorder is to wear proper mouthpieces while playing sports, wearing mouth guards while sleeping, making sure to chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth, cutting tough meats and other foods into small pieces and minimizing gum chewing.