If you suffer from TMJ disorder, the last thing that you want is to make it even more painful.

There’s no doubt about it, living with TMJ disorder can be painful. TMJ pain can make it difficult to eat, talk or even kiss your spouse, and the last thing any sufferer wants is to inadvertently make their TMJ pain worse. However, a few behaviors that can exacerbate TMJ pain. Here is a list of some of the TMJ-pain-inducing habits that you should avoid:

#1. You use your teeth as tools.

When you find yourself without scissors or a knife, but you need to open a package, it can be incredibly tempting to use your teeth. But it’s important to keep in mind that your teeth aren’t tools, and you shouldn’t use them as such. Using your teeth in place of bottle openers, pliers or scissors is a surefire way to put unnecessary stress on your jaw joint.

#2. You’re under a lot of stress.

If you feel like you are chronically stressed out, then it’s essential to find ways to manage your stress. High levels of stress can often lead to teeth grinding, which often happens while you’re sleeping, so you may not even realize you’re doing it. When you grind your teeth, it can exacerbate your TMJ pain. Additionally, stress can also make it difficult to cope with the pain you are already experiencing, making it seem worse. Exercise, meditation and connecting with friends and family are great ways to cope with stress.

#3. You take bites that are too big.

Your jaw can extend only so far, and if you open your jaw too wide, you could end up hurting the jaw joint. If you suffer from TMJ, it’s important to avoid taking bites that are overly large. If you’re eating tall food, like a burger or sandwich that is stacked high with all of your favorites, you’d be much better off cutting it up into smaller, easier to manage bites. Bites that are too big also take more time and energy to chew, which can also cause excess TMJ pain.

#4. Poor Sleep Posture.

Not only is it important to get plenty of high-quality sleep when you have TMJ disorder, it’s also important to make sure that your back, neck and head are in the proper alignment when you’re sleeping. If you find yourself waking up with pain in your hips, neck or back frequently, you might want to think about how you’re positioned during sleep. If you’re a stomach sleeper, this puts excess stress on your jaw joints. Using too few or too many pillows can also be an issue.

#5. You’re a nervous chewer.

When you’re bored, stressed or nervous, do you ever find yourself chewing on pens, fingernails, clothes or anything else? If so, you’re probably a nervous chewer. Any unnecessary chewing can stress your facial and neck muscles, causing added discomfort in your jaw joints, so it’s important to find alternative ways to cope with your nerves.

Recognizing these behaviors and findings ways to manage your stress can help to reduce your TMJ pain, but the only way to find lasting relief is to treat the source of the problem, not just the pain. Schedule your appointment with James Otten Dentistry today for TMJ treatment in Lawrence.