What is TMJ dysfunction?

TMJ dysfunctions are conditions affecting your jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. These conditions can cause several issues, including jaw pain, headaches and difficulty opening and closing your mouth.

You might hear people call these conditions TMJ. But “TMJ” refers to your actual jaw joint, while “TMD” stands for temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Another name is temporomandibular joint disorder.

Things that make TMJ dysfunction worse

You can’t always control factors that cause TMJ dysfunction. But certain habits can make TMD worse, including:

  • Using your teeth as tools (like tearing off clothing tags).
  • Poor posture. (This can place excess pressure on your neck, shoulder and facial muscles.)
  • Chewing on pens, pencils or other items (a common “nervous habit” behavior).
  • Chewing on ice or excessively chewing gum.
  • Taking big bites of food. (This can overwork your jaw muscles.)
  • Daytime teeth clenching or grinding.
  • Sleeping on your stomach.