Chewing gum and grinding teeth can cause a jaw condition called temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), which can be hard to diagnose.
In the case of Chris Cullen, he suffered dizziness, headaches, moodiness and exhaustion for two years and was incorrectly diagnosed with depression before he was finally diagnosed with TMJD, according to the Daily Mail. He visited a total of 15 different doctors since his symptoms started with no answers.
Cullen visited his general practitioner, who diagnosed him with depression. “He’d offered me antidepressants the year before, but I’d resisted,” he said. “Deep down I knew my problem wasn’t depression. But after so many tests, you do start to doubt yourself, so I reluctantly agreed to take them. The irony is, by that point I probably was a bit depressed – but I felt low because of my symptoms, not the other way around.”
It wasn’t until he looked online that he found TMJD and decided to visit an expert.
“The one thing that kept coming up was TMJD,” said Cullen. “Funnily enough, this had been ruled out by the last specialist I’d seen, a neuro-otologist.”
TMJD is a term for problem with the joint, the muscles around it or the cartilage disc in the jaw. Recently, chewing gum has been found to cause it, as well as grinding your teeth while sleeping or even opening your mouth widely while yawning.
“When you clench your teeth to grind them, the jaw joint can’t slide around and this puts stress on the muscles, teeth, and joint,” said dentistry specialist Professor Andrew Eder. “A mouth guard worn at night to keep the top and bottom teeth separated can help the joint and allow the muscles to relax.”
TMJD often goes away on its own, but sometimes orthodontic treatment or surgery is needed to fix it. The trouble is, it’s not easy to diagnose. So look out for these symptoms if you chew gum excessively.