What Causes TMJ to Flare Up?

Pain in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can interfere with eating, speaking, and your ability to function normally throughout the day. This joint, located just in front of your ears, receives much less attention than others, such as the knee, hip, and shoulder. However, if you have a TMJ flare-up, you know how badly you want relief from its symptoms. Continue reading to learn more about this common disorder that can occur to anyone at any time.

If your TMJ flares up and causes pain, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral and TMJ examination.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint allows you to chew, speak, yawn, and do anything that involves the movement of your jaw. Known as one of the most complex joints in the human body, many people never consider their TMJ until it fails to function efficiently and painlessly. Although some people experience chronic TMJ disorder, it is more common to have your TMJ flare up for a couple of days or a few weeks.

Symptoms Of TMJ Flare Up

A TMJ flare-up can strike at almost any time. For example, it may start in the morning after waking up, after eating an apple, or after a tense moment at work. The symptoms occur suddenly and linger for days or weeks before resolving. The common symptoms of a TMJ flare-up include:

  • Pain. You can have moderate-to-severe pain directly in front of your ears, facial muscles, or radiating to the neck and shoulders.

  • Headaches. Almost one-third of TMJ headaches are misdiagnosed as tension or migraine headaches. Tightness of jaw muscles and ligaments during a TMJ flare-up affects the skull to create a dull, aching pain.

  • Stiffness. You lose mobility of your jaw during a TMJ flare-up. Stiffness affects opening and closing and can lock your jaw open or closed.

  • Noises. TMJ dysfunction can cause various noises such as clicking, popping, or a grating sound.

  • Toothache. Painful teeth, especially while eating, are common with TMJ disorders. You may notice extreme sensitivity to hot and cold until the flare-up resolves.

Causes Of TMJ Flare Up

There are many possible causes of a TMJ flare, such as:

  • Stress. Researchers continue to discover the many ways stress negatively affects the human body. Stress and anxiety can trigger a TMJ flare-up by causing tightness of jaw muscles and increasing the probability of grinding your teeth. 

  • Misaligned bite. How your teeth bite together can affect your temporomandibular joint. If your teeth don’t come together evenly, this places stress on the joint and leads to pain.

  • Certain foods. Eating chewy or hard foods such as bagels, gum, or nuts can strain the TMJ.

  • Unhealthy habits. Habitually chewing on your fingernails, ink pens, or ice can damage your teeth and TMJ.

  • Dehydration. Lack of daily hydration affects many body parts and deprives your TMJ of its needed lubrication to function properly.

Treatment For TMJ Flare Up

If your TMJ flare-up affects your daily life, you should seek a professional diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Managing the symptoms of a TMJ flare-up can include:

  • Pain medications.

  • Eating a soft diet.

  • Heat and cold applications.

  • Bite modification.

  • Stress relief.

  • Gentle massage.

  • Mouthguard.

  • Jaw muscle exercises.

Schedule Appointment

Trident Dental offers several solutions to TMJ pain. Contact us today to see if you can benefit from a nightguard or other treatment.

Schedule Appointment

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