Chewing Gum: A Harmless Habit or TMJ Troublemaker?

February 9, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — bettersleepdent @ 7:49 pm
Woman holding her jaw due to TMJ pain

Chewing gum is a common habit for many, whether it’s to freshen breath, curb hunger, or help them concentrate. However, for those with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, chewing gum may not be as harmless as it seems! This painful condition can affect your quality of life in many ways, but what is it, and why does gum make it so much worse?

Read on to learn more about TMJ disorder and the effects of chewing gum on its progression.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts as a hinge connecting your jawbone to your skull. TMJ disorder occurs when there are issues with the muscles, ligaments, or joint itself, leading to discomfort and chewing issues. Symptoms include jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds when chewing, difficulty opening or closing the mouth, and headaches.

What Does Chewing Gum Have to do with TMJ Disorder?

For those with TMJ disorder, the repetitive motion of chewing gum can strain the jaw joint and worsen symptoms. But how? If you’re a person who exercises frequently, you may understand that over-using a muscle can cause it to get sore.

This is the same process that happens to your jaw muscle. When the ligaments and other tissues are worked repetitively, it causes microscopic tears that lead to pain and weakness. Gum’s only purpose is to be chewed and this encourages the repetitive motions that lead to TMJ pain. 

Tips For Chewing Gum

Most dentists agree that moderate amounts of gum-chewing won’t cause an issue. However, if you’re worried about a TMJ disorder, but want to continue chewing gum, consider these tips to minimize discomfort:

  • Choose Soft Gum: Opt for sugar-free or soft gums that require less effort to chew, reducing strain on the jaw.
  • Limit Chewing Time: Try to limit the duration of gum chewing sessions to avoid overworking the jaw joint.
  • Practice Jaw Exercises: Perform gentle jaw exercises to improve jaw mobility and reduce tension. If you need help, ask your dentist to recommend a routine.
  • Use Heat or Ice Packs: Once you start to “feel the burn” from your habit, applying ice packs to the jaw area can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Seek Professional Help: If you experience persistent TMJ symptoms, talk with your dentist for personalized treatment.

So, while chewing gum in moderation may not cause issues for everyone, patients with TMJ disorders should be cautious. By being mindful of their chewing habits and following these tips, they can minimize discomfort and help support overall jaw health.

About the Author

Is jaw pain giving you a headache? Dr. Sara Saba is a dental expert with nearly a decade of practice. She earned her dental doctorate from the University of Maryland at College Park and since then has pursued hours of advanced study through the Las Vegas Institute and other professional organizations. Call (301) 460-3331 to schedule a TMJ treatment consultation at Exceptional Dentistry Pain & Sleep Solutions or visit the website to see other treatments they offer.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.