Another semester is underway at Ohio State University, the Alma Mater of Dr. Mike Firouzian
, which means that Columbus is again swelled with thousands of incoming freshmen as well as returning sophomores, juniors, and seniors, all looking forward to another great year at one of the country’s leading universities.
Unfortunately, some of the students may find their college career is being marred by irritating, even disabling jaw pain. Here’s why college students often report jaw pain when they go to college.
For many people, college isn’t really a factor in their jaw pain. It’s just a coincidence that temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) often develops during the late teens or early 20s. It’s often related to stresses on the jaw, which has recently achieved its full size, and may not have adapted to the way that the teeth now fit together.
Both contact and noncontact sports can contribute to the development of TMJ. The jaw is not supported by other bones: it hangs from ligaments, tendons, and muscles, so any high-impact exercise can put stress on the jaw joint.
Even if your child participated in sports in high school, college represents a different level of participation. Competition can be harder, training schedules more grueling, and, without you to watch over them, they might be pushing themselves too hard.
You probably remember those all-night chat sessions in the dorm, where you talked and laughed and talked some more or argued vehemently over the right solution to the world’s problems. These are great experiences that every college student should enjoy, but they can be stressful on the muscles and joints of the jaw, resulting in jaw pain..
It’s likely that eating at college is completely different than it is at home. Without home cooking, most college students rely on prepared food, whether that means the cafeteria in the dorm or eating at restaurants. This can significantly increase exposure to additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is common in prepared foods (especially snack foods like flavored potato chips). MSG has been linked to jaw pain and migraines in some people. Increased consumption of salt and sugar can also lead to jaw inflammation and pain.
Sometimes the problem is the opposite, though: college students devoted to eating raw vegetables, even going vegetarian or vegan. This can put their jaw under more stress. Paradoxically, a paleo diet can do the same thing.
Stress is also common among college students at the beginning and the end of the semester. This can lead to both daytime and sleep jaw clenching, which, in turn, can lead to jaw pain and headaches.
Don’t Ignore Jaw Pain
It’s important to remember that jaw pain can be the first warning of TMJ that can worsen if left untreated. It’s best to take the problem seriously early on, when minor treatment can make a big difference.
Start with home care using over-the-counter medication and heat and cold therapy. Try a soft diet for a week. Try to identify and treat the cause, such as reducing stress, getting a more supportive mouthguard for sports, and eating a better diet. If pain persists for more than a week, schedule an appointment with a doctor or TMJ dentist for TMJ treatment options.
If you are looking for a TMJ dentist in Columbus, OH, please call (614) 848-5001 for an appointment at the Center for Family & Cosmetic Dentistry.