For many people, Thanksgiving means getting together with family and friends and spending some quality time around the holidays, reflecting on what you’re thankful for. But that’s not all Thanksgiving means… it’s also about the food! In fact, between cooking a massive turkey and putting together all the traditional sides and desserts, cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be an all-day affair.
Unfortunately, while eating that Thanksgiving feast can be enjoyable, some people suffer from symptoms afterward that aren’t as much fun. If you experience jaw pain after Thanksgiving, don’t just write it off as too much chewing — it could be a sign of something more serious.
A Healthy Jaw Can Handle Tough Turkey
If you experienced jaw pain after Thanksgiving, you may have thought it was normal after doing so much chewing. (Plus, Aunt Edna’s turkey is notoriously dry–who wouldn’t have a sore jaw after that?) Most of us don’t normally eat as much food in one sitting as we tend to do on Thanksgiving, so it can be easy to think a sore jaw is normal with the increased workload for your mouth that the holiday brings. But actually, no amount of Thanksgiving dinner should be too much for your jaw to handle.
Although our jaws have adapted since the advent of cooking, they’re still very tough and can more than handle the biggest meal.
If a big meal like Thanksgiving causes jaw pain, that isn’t a normal response. Instead, it could be a red flag of a larger problem.
All About Jaw Pain
Not all jaw pain is alike: Some jaw pain is felt in the joints, and some is felt in the muscles. Either one could be a sign of TMJ, but for different reasons.
The temporomandibular joint, which articulates the jaw, is located just in front of the ears. If you put two fingers there, you can feel it move when you open and close your mouth. If this is where you feel your jaw pain, that’s probably because the ligaments that allow the joint to function are inflamed. Lots of things can cause this inflammation, such as bruxism, trauma, or malocclusion (a “bad bite”). These ligaments also hold a cartilage disc in place to cushion your joint as it moves. If this ligament is torn or strained, that disc could become displaced, causing the common popping and clicking noises that people associate with TMJ.
If your jaw pain is felt in the muscles (which can be felt as facial pain all the way up to your temples), this is a sign of excessive strain — more strain than your Thanksgiving dinner should reasonably inflict (Aunt Edna’s turkey notwithstanding). This strain could instead be caused by chronic tension in the jaw. If you have a bad bite, the way your teeth fit together could cause constant stress to the muscles, causing pain that may even spread to the neck and shoulders. This kind of muscle pain as a result of jaw tension can also cause headaches.