After a summer of fun, returning to school for the fall semester can be a stressful event, for both children and adults. Unfortunately, stress and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) disorder (TMD) go hand-in-hand for many people, including children. If you’re a parent, you can help your child prevent TMJ pain or manage their TMD by making their return to school as stress-free as possible. In this blog post, Dr. Ivan Stein and the team at the Headache & TMJ Center for New Jersey share a few tips for the back-to-school season.
Ease Them Back Into Good Sleeping Habits
Many parents allow their children to stay up a little later during summer vacation. But now that the school year has started, a full night’s rest is imperative. Numerous studies show getting seven to eight hours of sleep helps increase cognitive function such as memory, while minimizing the effects of stress. If your child is having a hard time getting back to a good sleeping schedule, gradually recondition them. Have them go to bed a little earlier each night and avoid giving them sugary foods and caffeine in the hours leading up to their bedtime.
Set Up a Work Station
Every child needs a comfortable, well-lit area to study and do homework. Whether it be a desk or dining room table, make sure the area is clutter-free and away from distractions (e.g., TV). Use this time to have your child practice good posture. Studies show there is a link between bad posture and TMJ problems. When your child is sitting, have them keep their shoulders back and chest forward.
Pack TMJ-Friendly Lunches
Constantly chewing foods that are hard or chewy is a prime risk factor for developing TMJ pain. The repetitive jaw movement can strain the jaw, in turn worsening TMJ symptoms including soreness and headaches. If you prepare your child’s lunches, stay clear of hard foods and opt for soft foods (e.g., soups, steamed vegetables) that put less pressure on the jaw. Regardless of whether or not you prepare your child’s lunches, it’s wise to educate your child on healthy eating habits, including warning them about foods that may cause or worsen TMJ pain.
Don’t Overdo Extracurricular Activities
Whether it be football, soccer or a painting class, extracurricular activities give your child the chance to unwind after school. However, it’s important to avoid overbooking your and your child’s schedules. Scheduling too many activities can cause your child to stress out as they feel the need to over-perform. Not to mention your child’s school work may suffer. Consider limiting your child to one or two activities per week.
Purchase a Mouth Guard
If your child is prone to teeth grinding (bruxism), consider purchasing a mouth guard for them to wear while they sleep. TMD mouth guards are similar to those used for sports and exercise and can prevent your child from grinding their teeth. At our practice, we offer several types of mouth guards and can even provide one that is customized to fit your child’s unique jaw and mouth.
Schedule an Appointment
The best thing you can do for your child who has TMD or showing possible symptoms of TMD is to schedule an appointment with a specialist. Dr. Ivan Stein has years of experience diagnosing and treating TMD in both children and adults. To schedule an appointment for you or your child, please call (855) TMJ-DOCS or (855) 8655-3627 today.