Gum Chewing, Teeth Grinding and TMJ Disorder

This picture was taken in Fort Wadsworth, located at the entrance to New York Harbor, and that’s the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the background. My brother Chris and I were living in Jersey and staying at my cousins Peter and Paul’s house on Staten Island for the summer. It was very hot and sticky that day but we were on a mission 1) to get out of my Aunt Mary’s hair and 2) to have fun by burning up some of that energy of youth.


TMJ-Charlotte-NCMy brother Chris was older and stronger than all of us and won every contest that day – sack race, three legged race (by dragging Paul), egg toss . . . you name it. From left to right that’s me, Chris, my cousin Paul, my cousins’ friend Robbie, and my cousin Pete. My love affair with chewing gum began here when I won the “biggest bubble” contest. I was all knees and elbows and I think it was the only time I excelled in a contest with “the boys”.

A few years later when Chris was a freshman in high school, he become the quarterback on the varsity football team. In the off season, he took up pole vaulting. Summer came, the coach loaned him some equipment and he practiced pole vaulting in our backyard.

I kept chewing gum . . . lots and lots of gum . . . all varieties and lollipops with gum in the middle (two treats in one). I woke up with it stuck in my hair. I stopped biting my nails. I had gum now.

I also had a jaw that threatened to stay closed due to the muscles going into spasm. It clicked, it popped and I was unable to open my mouth all the way. My dentist shared with me that I was also grinding my teeth, evidently at night. I had temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJD. If you have this problem, you are well aware of the uncomfortable tightness in your temporalis and masseter muscles, in addition to the other muscles that need treatment. I stopped chewing gum, wore a mouth guard at night, took ibuprofen for the headaches and pain and searched for a solution that eluded me.

Fast forward to 2013, I found a way to be pain free without drugs. My jaw feels great now and I wake in the morning without pain. As a licensed massage therapist for the past five years, I learned to help myself and my patients, too. If you have been diagnosed with TMJD, or if your dentist or a loved one tells you that you are grinding your teeth when you sleep, if you wake with a headache, have tenderness/tightness in your jaw, aching pain in your face or around your ear you don’t have to live that way. You can be pain free also!

Find a massage therapist who has been trained in this specialty area and has successfully treated this disorder. It’s a wonderful feeling having a relaxed jaw, face and neck.

Candy Benish is a licensed massage therapist in Charlotte North Carolina and owner of Results Massage & Bodywork, LLC.