There are different reasons a person can develop TMJ disorder. Some of the reasons are beyond a person’s control, such as external trauma from a car accident or sports-related injury. General decline of the joint over time is also a factor, such as when the cartilage in the joint is damaged by arthritis. Sometimes, the disc within the joint can move out of place or deteriorate. A person can even have a misaligned bite (called malocclusion), where both the lower and upper teeth do not meet properly.
There are many causes of TMJ disorder that are within a person’s control. Anyone who likes eating hard foods, chews gum frequently, or bites his or her fingernails is susceptible to TMJ pain. The repeated motion of chewing gum or biting on fingernails puts unnecessary stress on the TMJ, and this strain can be amplified by using one side of the mouth more than the other. Stress is another common trigger - people who clench their teeth may develop a TMJ disorder, sometimes without being aware of what they are doing. If a person pays attention to their stress levels throughout the day, they can typically counteract the effects of stress on the body. Deep breathing exercises as well as relaxation techniques can help prevent TMJ disorder.