Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) can certainly put a damper on your enjoyment of food. Not only can they cause pain when chewing, but for some people, swallowing is also painful. But why does this happen, and what can you do to stop it?
Your jaw joint, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is not an isolated mechanism. The bones and muscles involved with this powerful and specialized joint are part of an integrated system that includes your head, face, neck, and back. As a result, anything that affects those parts will also affect your TMJ. Swallowing is one of the many ways the muscles in your TMJ are utilized every day – and it’s also one of the triggers for TMJ pain in many people.
Swallowing Isn’t Simple
When you swallow, muscles in your jaw, tongue, face, and neck are utilized to properly get food and liquids safely down your throat. Swallowing is a complicated process that involves not only these muscles, but nerves as well. If there is any abnormality in the multi-step process of chewing and swallowing, it may affect your TMJ, resulting in pain and irritation each time you do it.
Because so many muscles in the face and around the mouth and ears are used in the process of chewing and swallowing food, just one problem can set off a chain reaction. Inflammation of the TMJ or an imbalance in the muscles are common reasons people feel the pain when they swallow. You may also hear clicking or popping sounds.
The Effects of Painful Swallowing
If you’re experiencing ear or jaw pain when you swallow as a result of a TMJ problem, this can lead to other issues as well.
First, any pain during chewing could be unconsciously causing you to chew less. Chewing is the first step in your digestive process, designed to help break down food and transport it easily down the esophagus. If you don’t chew your food enough, you could strain your muscles even more as they work harder to handle large chunks of food. Many wellness and nutrition experts will advise you to chew food carefully and thoroughly to help your body absorb the most nutrients. And, as professionals who treat TMJ, we will tell you that unchewed food is hard on your TMJs.
Finally, choking is a concern when you don’t properly chew your food. If you’re not chewing your food well because of TMJ pain, start with a TMJ-friendly diet to help avoid this problem. Follow up with a call to MedCenter TMJ so we can help you find an effective solution for your jaw pain and get you back to feeling like yourself again.