As a general rule, chewing gum is seen as being good for your teeth so long as it is sugar free gum. The extra chewing stimulates the production of saliva that is known for its special anti-bacterial properties that help fight tooth decay. However, you can have too much of a good thing and this certainly applies if you have the habit of chewing gum to the extent that it aggravates the temporomandibular joint (TMJ for short).
What is the Temporomandibular Joint?
The temporomandibular joint (hereafter referred to as the TMJ) is a complicated joint that attaches your jawbone to your skull. This joint can move your jaw up and down but it can also slide your jaw from side to side. It can perform the whole range of movements needed to chew and to speak and even sing. A wonder of nature that you rarely think about: until it goes wrong! If a part of this complicated joint becomes irritated or inflamed, the condition is known as TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder can make itself known through the following symptom; jaw pain, facial pain, difficulty opening the mouth, pain while chewing, clicking and popping, headaches or earaches. In short, a bad case of TMJ can make your life a misery.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
TMJ can be caused by accidental damage such as a blow to the jaw or it may be caused by arthritis in the joint. If your teeth are misaligned, your jaw may have to chew in a movement it doesn't like or your jaw may experience a larger than normal impact when chewing. Stress can cause TMJ, especially if you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth. Last but not least, overuse of the jaw can cause the joint to become inflamed and this is particularly likely if you chew gum all day long. Even if you are not a constant gum chewer, an hour or so of chewing can worsen a pre-existing condition such as arthritis or accidental damage.
What To Do if You Think You Have TMJ Disorder
First of all don't do anything that makes it feel worse, this will mean avoiding food that takes a lot of chewing, especially chewing gum. Next, come to see us. We will ask you to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible to discover exactly what part of the joint is aching and then we will find out exactly what causes it to ache. We can usually tell you what to do (or what not to do) to stop the problem from getting worse. With a bit of early intervention, the TMJ may even be able to cure itself! Surgery is always a possibility, but we see this as a last resort. Usually, if the condition can be diagnosed soon enough, a much simpler cure can be found. Reach out to us for more help!