Habits to Avoid with TMD

Tmj Dentist Troy, MI

TMD stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. This issue usually involves pain in the temporomandibular joint, which is often referred to as TMJ, and the problem may also make it difficult to either open or close the jaw. Persons who have been diagnosed with TMD often look for ways to ease the discomfort and improve jaw mobility.  

Symptoms that indicate TMD

TMD has the potential to significantly disrupt a patient’s life. According to the Mayo Clinic, this disorder often involves several symptoms:

  • Pain in either one or both of the temporomandibular joints 
  • “Locking” in the TMJ, which makes it difficult or impossible to fully open or close the jaw
  • Discomfort or tenderness in the jaw or face
  • Pain or difficulty with chewing  
  • Clicking or popping with TMJ movement

Habits that aggravate TMD 

TMD can be distracting and painful, but patients with this disorder can reduce its impact. Changing some repetitive mannerisms or making alternative food choices can help make a difference.

Resting the jaw on the hands

Plenty of people prop up their heads on their hands. According to the American Student Dental Association, this seemingly benign action forces the jaw into an unnatural position, which can make the pain in the temporomandibular joint worse. 

Biting the nails

It may be easy to bite nails mindlessly, but this habit moves the jaw in ways that can exacerbate TMD. The habit can be a challenging one to break, and it usually requires a very conscious effort. Sometimes, redirecting this behavior, such as snapping a rubber band against the wrist, may help.

Grinding the teeth 

Teeth grinding, which is also called bruxism, is not usually a conscious choice. It often happens while a person is asleep. For patients who grind their teeth frequently, a dentist might recommend a mouthguard. These devices cannot stop individuals from clenching their teeth while asleep, but they can mitigate some of the negative effects of grinding. 

Chewing gum or tough foods 

Anything that requires a lot of work or movement from the jaw is likely to make TMD symptoms worse. Individuals do not necessarily need to permanently avoid foods that are tough to chew or stop chewing gum altogether, but staying away from both during a period of increased temporomandibular pain may help resolve the discomfort. 

Clenching teeth due to stress

Like bruxism, clenching teeth in response to increased tension is often unconscious. However, persons who clench their teeth as a stress reaction while awake can consciously change the behavior. For these patients, purposely relaxing the jaw while under stress may help relieve TMD symptoms. Other stress management techniques may also reduce the unconscious urge to clench the jaw in the first place.


Avoiding the bad habits listed above may help resolve TMD pain. Unfortunately, severe cases may not always respond to lifestyle adjustments alone. For patients with a condition that still persists despite behavioral changes, a visit to a dental professional for evaluation can address remaining pain or mobility issues.

Request an appointment here: https://www.thanasasdds.com or call Thanasas Family Dental Care at (248) 260-2878 for an appointment in our Troy office.

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