TMJ Disorders: Do You Chew On One Side Of Your Mouth?
Chewing food on one side of your mouth is called habitual chewing side syndrome. One-sided chewing can be detrimental to your health leading to jaw problems including TMJ pain, TMJ headaches and TMJ ear pain. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. You have two of them on each side of our face. The TMJs connect the skull to the jawbone and are necessary for chewing, along with the surrounding muscles in the lower face.
Those with jaw dysfunction or misalignment and/or other TMJ disorders may favor one-sided chewing without even being aware of it. One-sided chewing is difficult to change and there are further consequences to this habit. The lack of exercising one side of the jaw weakens the muscles around it. The muscles on the favored side of the jaw become overdeveloped while the muscles on the other side become weak and underdeveloped. This can result in a lopsided appearance of your face and smile. The underused muscles of the jaw can atrophy and worsen jaw problems, including misalignment of your bite.
What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Is it the habit of one-sided chewing that predisposes you to jaw problems; or is it the jaw dysfunction or misalignment that creates the habit of one-sided chewing?
Arthritis, a blow to the jaw, poor dental health and normal aging often lead to structural changes in and around the jawbone. Structural changes cause misalignment of the bite and one-sided chewing. Tension and stress are the culprits of brux habits. Bruxism is a condition in which one grinds or clenches their teeth, and it commonly occurs during sleep. You are likely to clench and grind on one side more than the other. If you are right-handed, you may be more prone to chew on the fingernails of your right hand, or bite down on a pen in the right side of your mouth. This can create imbalanced forces on the jaw joints and one-sided chewing. Jaw problems are complicated and complex. Each person may have a different history.
Favoring and using one side of the mouth stresses the TMJ (jaw joint) and can wear down the teeth on that side. The jaw then tilts, which causes the uneven facial appearance. The uneven motion stresses the jaw joints and muscles on both sides of the face. Compensation can further cause jaw problems. As you can now understand, TMJ disorders and underlying conditions are complex and vary from one person to the next.
What can you do to normalize chewing? Become aware of your chewing behaviors when you’re eating. It’s actually quite easy to fix. The key is to be more mindful of your chewing. Initially, switch over to chewing on the side of the jaw that has been neglected. Take your time and eat slowly, chew mindfully and softly. Don’t be too aggressive since this can create more jaw pain and discomfort. It’s like any other muscle group in your body that has become atrophied. It takes time and patience to slowly rebuild the muscle’s memory.
TMJ disorders and jaw problems require a multi-faceted approach to address the underlying causes and to help manage the symptoms. It’s important to seek out the advice of a TMJ specialist and orofacial pain specialist in your area.
TJz Balm™, is a first of its kind, organic topical pain relief medicine that was created to soothe and relax the delicate areas around the jaw, neck and behind the ears. The massaging applicator allows for deep penetration in the surrounding muscles and jaw joints. The natural and clean ingredients are good for your skin and won’t cause breakouts or problems for sensitive skin.
Hand photo created by cookie_studio, courtesy of freepik.com