Dental Tips |6 min read

Things that Make TMJ Worse


TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition that affects the jaw joint and the muscles surrounding it.

It can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty with everyday activities such as chewing and speaking. While the exact causes of TMJ are unclear, certain factors can exacerbate the symptoms and worsen the condition.

In this article, we will explore some things that can make TMJ worse and provide insights on managing and alleviating the symptoms.

Understanding TMJ

The temporomandibular joint is the hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull. When this joint becomes damaged or inflamed, it can lead to TMJ disorder.

The exact cause of TMJ is often multifactorial, and certain determinants can worsen the symptoms and discomfort.

Individuals with TMJ can experience relief and improve their quality of life by identifying and avoiding these triggers.

Stress and TMJ

Stress is a common culprit in aggravating TMJ symptoms.

When stressed, we tend to clench our jaws or grind our teeth, putting additional strain on the temporomandibular joint.

This can lead to increased pain, muscle tension, and jaw stiffness.

Practicing stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and engaging in relaxing activities can help reduce the impact of stress on TMJ.

Poor posture and TMJ

Maintaining good posture is essential for overall health, including the proper functioning of the jaw joint.

Slouching or having a forward head posture can misalign the jaw, increasing the strain on the temporomandibular joint.

It is essential to be mindful of your posture throughout the day and make ergonomic adjustments, such as using a supportive chair and positioning your computer screen at eye level.

Teeth grinding and clenching

Bruxism, the habit of grinding or clenching teeth, commonly contributes to TMJ discomfort.

The excessive force exerted during teeth grinding can cause pain, jaw muscle fatigue, and joint inflammation.

Wearing a nightguard or splint can help protect the teeth and alleviate the pressure on the temporomandibular joint.

Stress reduction techniques and avoiding stimulating substances like caffeine can also reduce teeth grinding.

Poor diet and TMJ

Diet is crucial to our overall health and can impact TMJ symptoms.

Consuming foods that are difficult to chew, excessively crunchy, or require wide jaw movements can strain the temporomandibular joint and worsen the pain.

Opting for softer foods, cutting food into smaller pieces, and avoiding excessive jaw movements while eating can bring relief to individuals with TMJ.

Chewing gum and TMJ

While chewing gum may seem harmless, it can be problematic for those with TMJ.

The repetitive chewing motion stresses the jaw joint, leading to increased pain and discomfort.

It is advisable to avoid chewing gum or opt for sugar-free alternatives that require less jaw movement.

Excessive jaw movements

Engaging in activities that require excessive jaw movements, such as singing loudly, yawning widely, or participating in activities that strain the jaw joint, can worsen TMJ symptoms.

Being mindful of these actions and practicing relaxation techniques when engaging in such activities can help minimize discomfort.

Lack of sleep and TMJ

Poor sleep quality or lack of sufficient sleep can negatively impact TMJ symptoms.

When we are sleep deprived, our bodies are more prone to stress and muscle tension, which can exacerbate TMJ pain.

Establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and practicing relaxation before bed can improve sleep quality and reduce TMJ symptoms.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors such as extreme cold or humidity can affect TMJ symptoms.

Cold weather can cause muscles to contract and tighten, while high humidity may contribute to joint inflammation.

Protecting the jaw area with warm clothing or using a scarf during cold weather, and utilizing a humidifier in dry environments can help mitigate the impact of these external factors on TMJ.

Dental issues and TMJ

Dental problems, such as misaligned teeth or malocclusion (improper bite), can contribute to TMJ discomfort.

When the teeth do not align properly, it can place additional strain on the jaw joint, leading to pain and limited jaw movement.

Seeking orthodontic treatment or consulting a dentist to address dental issues can alleviate TMJ symptoms.

Physical trauma and TMJ

Physical trauma, such as a direct blow to the jaw or a car accident, can trigger TMJ symptoms or worsen existing TMJ.

If you experience facial or jaw trauma, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly.

Early intervention and appropriate treatment can help prevent long-term complications and minimize TMJ discomfort.

Medications and TMJ

Certain medications, such as muscle relaxants or pain relievers, can temporarily relieve TMJ symptoms.

However, long-term use of some medications may have side effects that can worsen the condition.

It is essential to consult with an expert dental team to determine the most appropriate medication and dosage for managing TMJ.

Hormonal changes and TMJ

Hormonal changes, particularly in women, can impact TMJ symptoms.

Fluctuations in hormone levels during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause can increase pain and discomfort.

Managing hormonal changes through lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction techniques, can help alleviate TMJ symptoms.

Self-care tips for TMJ relief

While consulting with a healthcare professional for personalized treatment is essential, several self-care strategies can relieve TMJ symptoms.

These include:

  • Applying warm or cold compresses to the jaw area
  • Performing gentle jaw exercises and stretches
  • Avoiding excessive jaw movements and activities that strain the jaw joint
  • Practicing stress management techniques
  • Maintaining good posture throughout the day
  • Following a balanced diet and preventing hard-to-chew foods
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers, if recommended by a healthcare professional


Can TMJ go away on its own?

TMJ symptoms can vary in severity and duration. Sometimes, symptoms may resolve independently with self-care techniques and lifestyle modifications. However, if the symptoms persist or worsen, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

Can TMJ be cured completely?

While no definitive cure for TMJ exists, various treatment options can effectively manage the symptoms and provide relief. These may include lifestyle changes, dental interventions, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgical procedures.

Can stress cause TMJ?

Stress can contribute to TMJ symptoms by causing jaw clenching or teeth grinding, which strains the jaw joint. Managing stress through relaxation techniques and stress reduction strategies can help minimize TMJ discomfort.

Is TMJ more common in women?

TMJ affects both men and women, but studies suggest it is more prevalent in women. Hormonal factors, such as fluctuations during menstruation or pregnancy, may contribute to the higher incidence of TMJ in women.

Can chiropractic care help with TMJ?

Chiropractic care, along with other complementary therapies, may provide relief for TMJ symptoms. It focuses on aligning the spine and improving overall musculoskeletal function, positively impacting jaw alignment and alleviating TMJ discomfort.


TMJ can be challenging to manage, but individuals can take proactive steps to alleviate their discomfort by understanding the factors that can worsen the symptoms.

Avoiding triggers such as stress, poor posture, teeth grinding, and certain foods can make a significant difference in managing TMJ.

Additionally, practicing self-care strategies and seeking appropriate medical and dental care can contribute to long-term relief and improved quality of life for individuals with TMJ.



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