TMJ, also known as temporomandibular joint disorder, is a typically painful disorder that involves clicking of the jaw, lockjaw, tenderness of the face and other uncomfortable symptoms that can disrupt your life and make the simplest tasks, like chewing, extremely difficult. It’s very difficult to figure out what causes TMJ in each individual, and there is no simple ‘cure’ for the disorder, but there are many things you can do at home to relieve your symptoms. Living with TMJ can be an uncomfortable and draining experience, but by following these few tips you can be on your way to a comfortable, controlled life with TMJ.
Applying ice and then a hot pack can help reduce pain and relax your muscles. Ice the painful side of your jaw for about 10 minutes, stretch your muscles carefully, then apply heat for about five minutes. Doing this a few times a day will help keep your muscles from tensing up and will relieve any minor pain.
Seeing a licensed massage therapist or chiropractor that specializes in TMJ therapy can greatly improve your condition. The masseter muscle is located directly behind the cheeks and is one of the strongest muscles in the body — this is where a trained therapist will focus the massage. This area tends to be overworked by chewing, grinding and other aggravating movements.
Getting a mouth guard or a splint can help prevent night grinding, a common symptom for TMJ sufferers, and help realign your mouth while you sleep. Only get guards and splints fitted by a dentist or orthodontist specializing in TMJ issues. Unfitted, over-the-counter guards typically won’t fit as well or be as effective in relieving symptoms as specially fitted guards.
Help Yourself Eat Comfortably
Many people experience the bulk of TMJ problems when moving their jaw — typically, while chewing. Make this experience easier for yourself by cutting food into smaller portions and eating softer foods. Foods such as mashed potatoes, soups, yogurt, fish, scrambled eggs and other easy-to-chew meals will make eating easier and keep you from over stretching your sensitive jaw.
Take OTC Meds
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil, Aleve and Motrin can help relieve day-to-day pain as a result of TMJ. Dentists can prescribe higher doses of these drugs if necessary, and muscle relaxers may also be needed for more severe cases. It’s also been proven that antianxiety medications and antidepressants can help relieve pain associated with stressed muscles, so you may be prescribed these as well.
Always be aware of your TMJ, but don’t let it control your life. It’s a delicate balance to remember to make things easier on yourself but to still live comfortably. There’s no direct ‘cure’ for TMJ, but it can be managed well by taking care of yourself and knowing your limits.
If you’ve been living with TMJ and are looking into corrective care, Greenspoint Dental wants to make your life easier and offers TMJ therapy as well as other full mouth restorative dentistry. Contact us today to make an appointment or schedule a consultation.