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What Is TMJ?

Have you ever heard or read the initials TMJ and wondered what they meant? TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, the hinge that connects the jaw to the skull. For many people, issues with TMJ may seem like a natural part of life. After all, it’s increasingly common for adults to suffer from inflammation of the TMJ at some point in their lives. Inflammation symptoms for most people can last for only a day, or can last for years.

As common as TMJ inflammation may be, TMJ complications usually arise from the tension in the jaw and the muscles that control its movement. While these issues are not commonly perceived as being preventable, you can reduce their causes by reducing this tension and the activities associated with it.

We at Charlotte Dentistry® have put together a list of common reasons that your TMJ can become inflamed and how to prevent them.


Much of the reason TMJ issues persist for adults between the ages of 20 and 40 are because these are widely accepted as the formative years for stress. As most people finish their highest level of education and enter the workforce, stress about supporting a family, student loans, and countless other factors are at their peak. These high levels of stress can show in your face and jaw, resulting from the formation of tension in the muscles around the TMJ, leading to inflammation in the area.

While it would be foolish to think that you could simply prevent stress, finding a way of stress and tension management could go a long way towards improving the health of your jaw. Some common treatment options include prayer, meditation, talk therapy, and medications to treat anxiety and depression. You can also make it a priority to spend time with people or activities that reduce your stress level.


When you eat food that is particularly difficult to bite or chew, you may be inviting unnecessary irritation in the TMJ area. What constitutes tension in the TMJ is different for different people, meaning that there is no definitive list of foods that are problematic for TMJ irritation. There are some obvious ones like taffy and especially chewy candy, but TMJ complications can also result from eating things like apples, popcorn, and carrots.

The surest way to act in prevention of TMJ problems associated with diet is to avoid eating foods frequently that take a significant effort to chew. If TMJ pain should occur, consider tracking your meals and your pain levels accordingly to get an idea of which foods are causing TMJ irritation.

Teeth Behavior

Grinding and clenching your teeth also can irritation the TMJ. For many people, clenching and grinding happens at night, so it isn’t as simple as making an honest effort to stop. There are products resembling mouth guards that you can wear to sleep to cut down on pressure and damage from grinding or clenching your teeth overnight.


Believe it or not, your posture may affect the alignment of the bones and muscles through your neck, spine, and jaw. Practicing excellent posture daily can be a key factor in preventing TMJ-related pain, both while standing up and while sitting in a chair.

Need Help?

While the tips that we have outlined here can certainly help prevent or alleviate some aspects of TMJ irritation, they are by no means replacements for seeing one of our specialists here at Charlotte Dentistry®. If you are experiencing pain where your jawbone meets your skull, please give us a call at (704) 274-3161 to schedule an appointment immediately. One of our dental health professionals will be able to properly diagnose your situation and help you maintain a pain-free jaw!

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