TMD or TMJ disorder (temporomandibular joint disorder) is a painful condition that affects many people. It is a condition that does not discriminate between the rich and poor, young and old, male or female. There is no known cure and, while there are treatments available to address the symptoms or reduce the chances of the condition worsening, there is no guarantee that the treatments will work for everyone.
But, there are things you can watch for that will tell you whether or not you may develop TMD/TMJ disorder.
TMD/TMJ disorder develops because the jaw joint structures have been eroded away due to too much stress being placed there. There are several things that can increase the stress applied to your TMJ. These things can be treated, stopped, or monitored.
1) Clenching (bruxism): Keep track of whether you clench your teeth together. Some do it when they're angry, happy, playful, or concentrating really hard. If you're clenching at night while you sleep (nocturnal bruxism), and many people do, you will often wake up stiff and sore jaw muscles.
2) Grinding: Many people engage in grinding while they sleep. It's similar to chewing, except there's no food involved and is usually a reaction to stress (much like clenching can be). Again, you may experience stiff and sore jaw muscles when you wake up. Your dentist may also discover that the surfaces of your teeth are being worn down, often a clinical sign of grinding and/or clenching.
3) Biting your lip: Believe it or not, habitually biting or nibbling your lips can also produce undue strain in your jaw joint. Physiologically, your jaw joint is not designed to optimally handle the stress that occurs when your teeth bite down in that position. This will strain not only the joint, but also the muscles and tendons/ligaments supporting the jaw structures.
4) Chewing gum: Habitual gum chewing can also be detrimental to your jaw joint health. The jaw joint isn't made to withstand constant sticky chewing for long periods. As a result it will tire from being used like that. Some patients have been known to developing clicking in their jaw joint as a result of gum chewing.