Yawning and TMD

People who have a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) are constantly thinking about actions that may seem insignificant to others. The simplest of gestures could harm the jaw of a person with TMD, leaving them feeling sore and miserable. Chewing a piece of gum, talking for long periods of time, or yawning can potentially be the cause of concern when your TMJ is already sore and inflamed.

We all know what a yawn is: an involuntary opening of the mouth coupled with a big inhale and exhale of air. But why does it happen?

Though it appears to be linked to fatigue and boredom, experts aren’t sure these are the only causes. There is some speculation that it helps cool the brain as well, which may explain why yawning happens more frequently in a hot room than in a cold one. In fact, a study published in Physiology and Behavior calls it a thermoregulatory function, which means that it helps control the temperature of the body in order to cool the brain.

If you have TMD, you may have noticed that your jaw pops or feels as if it comes out of its socket when you yawn. If you yawn a lot, you may also notice soreness in your jaw or face. If fatigue or lack of sleep is the reason you’re yawning, all of these symptoms can be compounded. Lack of adequate rest lowers the body’s ability to cope with pain. 

In sum, don’t try to suppress a yawn, especially if you have TMD. You could make the situation much worse!

What can you do to prevent the painful symptoms of TMD when you feel a yawn coming on? In short, you need to restore the health of your jaw so that natural occurrences such as yawning does not irritate your TMJ. These steps are key to managing TMD and to getting you feeling like yourself again:

  • Make an appointment with a professional who can properly diagnose and treat TMD. This is the first and most important step you can take to begin healing your jaw. Then, when you do have to yawn, your jaw will be better equipped to handle it.

  • Get stress under control. Stress can exacerbate TMD symptoms significantly. Stress can make it more difficult to deal with pain in general. It can also cause teeth grinding, known as bruxism, which causes jaw pain and irritation.

  • Pay attention to your sleeping habits. A lack of sleep harms the body’s ability to cope with pain and stress. This can make TMD symptoms a daily battle. In addition, if you’re using an old mattress or an ill-fitting pillow, you may be sabotaging not only your sleep quality, but the alignment of your neck, jaw and back as well. Therefore, TMD symptoms will continue to plague your everyday life until you have a supportive sleeping environment and your body is getting the rest that it needs.

    Tip: extend the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth to maximize  jaw opening.

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David CoreComment