Is the Holiday Season Adding to TMJ Issues?

Holidays often bring about added stress, which can create physical ailments


CHARLOTTE, N.C., USA – It’s common knowledge that people often feel increased fatigue, anxiety, irritability and pressure over the holiday season. These stress-related negative emotions could lead to physical ailments such as tension headaches, muscle soreness and jaw pain, which often come from underlying temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues.

“With the added tasks people need to get done over the holiday season, bruxism or teeth clenching can start or perhaps increase,” said Erik F. Reitter, DDS. “This can lead to temporary or permanent health issues.”

Dr. Reitter is a Board-Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at Carolinas Centre for TMJ Therapy and specialises in TMJ dysfunction (TMD)  in Charlotte, NC, USA. He is also a member of the American Dental Association (ADA) and the North Carolina Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (NC-OMS).

Symptoms of TMD include: noises such as clicking, popping or grinding; muscle pain in the face and neck; and pain around and into the ear. Other indications of TMD are: the inability to open your mouth as wide as you once could; the feeling of your jaw catching or locking; headaches; and changes in your bite.

“People need to realise that headaches, earaches and jaw and muscle pain, especially when left untreated, can become debilitating,” said Dr. Reitter. “Patients can lose the ability to open and close their mouths making eating and talking painful.” There is also the added damage to teeth, which often requires dental care. So it’s best to be proactive if you feel any symptoms such as noises, jaw pain, limited opening, headaches and so on. Early intervention is key to treating TMD, so don’t wait too long to see a specialist.

Treatment options can be any of the following: using splints; changes in oral and postural habits; education; and medications. There are also specific exercises and/or physical therapy that can be prescribed for patients. Surgery is only used as a last resort in severe cases. Some of the non-surgical techniques are as follows:

  • Alternate between moist heat (washcloth) and ice for sore jaw muscles.
  • Sparingly use anti-inflammatories such as Naproxen or Ibuprofen (use as directed on label).
  • Avoid eating hard or sticky ‘holiday’ foods such as candies or nuts; choose a soft diet.
  • Be sure to drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water per day.
  • Try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Schedule a holiday massage.  Have the therapist work the muscles of the neck, shoulders and face.
  • Avoid over-the-counter mouth guards or night guards as these can often makes symptoms worse.
  • Take the time each day to relax the face and jaw muscles.
  • Exercise daily as this can reduce stress.
  • Be cognizant of posture especially at the computer.
  • Avoid chewing gum, biting fingernails or chewing on cheeks or lips as these can create repetitive strain injuries.
  • Try calming breathing techniques such as deep ten-count inhale and exhale exercises.


TMJ affects millions of Americans every year (PRNewsFoto/Carolinas Centre For Oral & Fac).