Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are not a simple issue. A number of physical and psychological factors can play a role in the pain, inflammation, and other symptoms of TMD.
People with TMD often grind their teeth. Although this is a related factor, it’s not always the main culprit. And to add to the complexity of TMD, there are often “hidden” triggers at work that can aggravate symptoms, increase grinding, and make the condition worse.
Many people who suffer from TMD don’t realize that some seemingly unrelated factors could be causing them further pain and damage. If you’re dealing with jaw pain or other symptoms of TMD, it’s important to be aware of these surprising TMD aggravators:
Many people are exposed to loud sounds every day. Whether it’s a factory where you work, a lawnmower or leaf blower, or a loud concert, these excessively loud noises can damage more than your hearing. Not only can loud sounds cause or increase headaches, a common symptom of TMD, but they can cause tension in the jaw, neck, and body — a direct cause of many cases of TMD.
Cold Weather, Drinks, and Foods
When the mercury drops, many people find that their headaches, jaw pain, ear pain, and jaw stiffness get worse. This is not a coincidence; cold weather can tense muscles and aggravate orofacial pain. In addition, winter is prime cold and flu season, which can contribute to aches, headaches, and nasal congestion — which often aggravate existing TMD symptoms.
Sipping an icy drink might sound refreshing on a warm day, but people with TMD may need to scale back on the cold beverages. Drinking a cold drink or eating cold, frozen foods can increase jaw pain and cause muscles to tense. If you can’t tolerate tepid water, try drinking it chilled (without ice), or add a splash of fresh fruit to give it a refreshing flavor and some added nutrients.
Alcohol or Caffeine
Alcohol is known to cause poor quality sleep, increase waking at night, and contribute to daytime sleepiness. It can promote tension in the body, leading to more grinding. In addition, drinking alcohol has a diuretic effect, starving muscles (including your jaw) of much-needed hydration.
Although many people can’t live without one — or several — cups of coffee each day, caffeine may not be the best choice for TMD sufferers. Not only is it a diuretic (like alcohol), but it increases tension, interferes with sleep and relaxation, and can create feelings of anxiety in susceptible people — all of which are possible TMD triggers and grinding promoters.
Medications can have a number of unexpected side effects. Some people find that their TMD gets worse or they start grinding their teeth after starting a new medication, but they don’t realize that it could be a direct result of the new medication. Some antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), cause increased grinding in some people.
If you’re taking a medication and think it may be aggravating your TMD, talk with your doctor to explore possible alternatives. Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first discussing it with your doctor.
Don’t let the causes of TMD and grinding remain a mystery. Contact MedCenter TMJ to learn how you can get control of your symptoms and get back to enjoying your life!