Tannins and Your TMJ

Our teeth are most affected by the food and drink that enter our mouths, but the intricate details of this process often escape us. At Lake Forest Dental Arts we like to keep our patients informed, so today we’ll discuss how tannins, a common element in many beverages, can cause pain in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and sometimes be mistaken for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

What is the TMJ?

The TMJ connects the jaw and skull, facilitating all the jaw movements necessary for eating and speaking. Located in front of, and slightly below the ear, the TMJ is often harmed by stressful jaw clenching or tooth grinding. TMD usually results from all this stress, and is often indicated by pain in the TMJ, and a popping or clicking noise when opening and closing the jaw. If you feel pain in your jaw when consuming certain foods or beverages, you may be feeling the effects of TMD, but you might also just have tannins playing tricks on you.

How Tannins Can Confuse Your Jaw

Tannins are responsible for the bitter tastes of many wines and teas. When ingested, tannins cause rapid secretion of the salivary glands, yet also manage to leave a dry, rough feeling in the mouth. This dry feeling is the result of many saliva proteins aggregating together after reacting with the tannins. The rapid secretion of saliva requires that the largest salivary glands, the parotid glands, suddenly begin functioning on overload, which can cause painful spasms and muscle contractions near the TMJ. This pain, though usually relatively brief, is often confused with TMD pain.

The Benefits of Tannins

Tannins do more than make drinks bitter and jaws sore. For example, pressing a cool tea bag against bleeding or inflamed areas can help reduce the damage. Tannins can act as both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory substances.

Caring for Your TMJ

If your jaw only hurts when ingesting tannin-heavy substances, you probably don’t have serious issues with your TMJ. But if the pain is more persistent, or you often hear a popping or clicking sound when you chew, you may be experiencing something of greater concern. Dr. Fondriest is extensively trained in TMJ therapies, and a senior lecturer at the Pankey Institute, which specializes in the treatment of TMJ disorders. If you are concerned by the pain in your jaw, call our Chicago dental office today to schedule an appointment at (847)234-0517. We happily serve patients from Lake Forest and surrounding Chicago neighborhoods.