At Advanced Dental Care of Indiana, we understand that while many people may not think about their temporomandibular joints very often, this doesn’t negate the fact that we use them often. These joints, connecting your jaw bone to your skull, are used every time you chew, talk, or swallow. When something goes wrong with these joints and jaw muscles, TMJ disorder (also known as temporomandibular joint disorder) occurs. Oftentimes, this disorder is due to jaw injury, but it can also be caused by arthritis, inflammation, or even overuse. Along with TMJ disorder comes a number of debilitating symptoms such as clicking or popping sounds in the jaw upon opening or closing your mouth, locking of the jaw joint, headaches, and, of course, extreme pain.
Today, the dental staff at Advanced Dental Care of Indiana would like to share a few tips for managing TMJ pain at home. While we don’t know exactly how many people suffer from a TMJ disorder, some estimates suggest that over 10 million people are affected. Being such a common issue, it’s crucial that you know how to take care of yourself if you suffer from TMJ pain. Let’s get started!
The first thing you can do to manage TMJ pain at home involves using jaw exercises centered around decreasing both jaw pain and discomfort. Jaw stretches, among other jaw exercises, can help ease TMJ disorder symptoms. Your physical therapist, doctor, or dentist can show you how to properly use jaw exercises at home to stretch the jaw muscles and decrease pain. They can also show you how to adequately massage your jaw muscles to provide relief. Using these exercises and techniques on a daily basis at home can make a huge difference in your overall level of discomfort.
Use Stress Management Techniques
Believe it or not, stress can greatly aggravate the pain associated with TMJ disorder. The more stressed you are, the more you tend to subconsciously clench your jaw, which leads to greater discomfort over time. For this reason, stress management techniques that you can use at home can be really helpful in managing TMJ pain. From yoga poses and guided imagery to deep breathing and meditation, these stress management techniques can put you in a more relaxed state of mind and help to alleviate the stress that can cause greater discomfort.
Eat the Right Foods
Another great way to manage TMJ pain at home involves choosing the right foods to eat. Soft foods, such as applesauce, mashed potatoes, and soup, can decrease jaw pain and discomfort. If you don’t want to completely give up harder foods such as raw carrots, you should do your best to always cut them into bite-sized pieces and take very small bites. It is equally important to avoid chewy and sticky foods such as fruit snacks and chewing gum, as these types of foods are also known to aggravate TMJ pain. Limit these types of foods and do your best to stick to softer ones as much as possible to manage your TMJ pain at home.
Use Heat or Cold Therapy
Heat and cold therapy have been shown to relax both the jaw and face muscles and can easily be used at home to manage TMJ pain. Applying either ice packs or moist, warm heat compresses on a daily basis can relax the jaw and muscles exponentially, reducing the tension known to cause TMJ pain. Consult with your dentist or doctor in order to determine how long you should leave the ice or heat pack on as well as the proper placement to receive the greatest benefit.
Wear a Bite Guard
Finally, our last tip for managing TMJ pain at home involves the use of a bite guard. Also known as a stabilization splint, a bite guard can help to keep you from either clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, two things known to exacerbate TMJ pain. Bite guards are typically made of plastic and prevent your teeth from touching due to their placement over your upper and lower teeth. It should be noted that there are various types of bite guards available so talk to your dentist in order to find the best fit for you, whether that be a soft or firm bite guard.
Bite guards are only intended to be worn on a short-term basis, so let your dentist guide you on how long and how often you should be wearing it at home. Additionally, if you find that the use of a bite guard is either beginning to change your natural bite or increase your pain, you should stop wearing it immediately.
Contact Advanced Dental Care of Indiana For Help with TMJ Disorder
If you’re suffering from the pain associated with TMJ disorder, we want you to know that you’re not alone. Further, we can provide the solution that you’re looking for. Our dental staff here at Advanced Dental Care of Indiana is experienced in diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder in our patients, and we want to help you. If you find that you are having trouble with jaw pain or opening your mouth, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Temporomandibular joint anatomy is intricate, and nobody knows it better than our team at Advanced Dental Care of Indiana.
Offering quality dental care at an affordable price, Advanced Dental Care of Indiana is here for all patients in the Anderson or Fortville areas. Contact us today at (765) 622-7000 (our Anderson office) or (317) 485-7000 (our Fortville office) or book an appointment online today! We look forward to working with you.