There are many reasons to be happy over the holidays, but TMJ can also spike at this time. Although it may seem to subside again, it’s good to take this flare-up as a warning and get treatment before the problem worsens.
Why TMJ Symptoms Can Spike During the Holidays
The holidays are a big change from your normal routine, and there are many reasons why it might cause your TMJ symptoms to spike.
Holiday stress: Stress can be a big part of your holidays. Whether you’re rushing around trying to find last-minute gifts or dealing with in-laws or other guests in your home, you might find yourself clenching your teeth more than usual. And it may not be over yet–there’s still the holiday bills.
Holiday get-togethers: One of the delightful things about the holidays is getting to see people you haven’t seen in a long time. Maybe not since last Christmas. Maybe not in a month of Christmases. You might find yourself smiling, talking, and laughing a lot more than usual, and that can be hard on the jaw. Jaw problems that are in their early stages may not be noticeable all the time, but when you give your jaw a workout, you may experience jaw pain or sounds..
Holiday foods: Speaking of giving your jaw a workout, some holiday favorites can be really hard on your jaw. Peanut brittle and other hard candies, for example. Or chewy foods like candied fruit. Heck, even Aunt Edna’s dry-as-dust turkey can be really hard on your jaw.
If TMJ Symptoms Don’t Go Away
If you have mild TMJ, the odds are good that symptoms will go away after the stress and strain of the holiday passes. If they don’t resolve on their own after a few days, try home care. Switch to a soft diet and take anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications. Use cold for joint pain and warmth for sore muscles.
But if symptoms don’t go away after a week, increase in severity, or involve urgent problems like a locked jaw, it’s time to seek professional care. You should also seek professional care if longtime jaw popping or clicking suddenly stops. This isn’t a sign that your jaw has improved, it’s a sign that it’s getting worse.
Remember: the sooner you get TMJ treated, the better off you are. With early treatment, you can avoid long-term damage to your teeth and joints. You can also avoid the potential sensitization of your pain system that has been implicated in many chronic pain conditions.
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