Many people suffer from chronic facial or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. The symptoms of this kind of pain include jaw stiffness, pain on opening the mouth or chewing. Many patients will suffer from headaches, especially in the temple area, and the pain can also mimic ear pain. If there is an issue with the joint itself, there can be popping or clicking noises associated with jaw movement. This kind of jaw pain tends to be most commonly due to spasms of the muscles that open and close the jaw. The cause of the vast majority of these muscular spasms is involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth. This clenching can be done daytime or nighttime and is made worse by stress.
If you find yourself experiencing TMJ symptoms that are mild and infrequent, they may go away on their own. This sometimes can take weeks or months depending on what you do to help your jaw find relief.
Of course, this is a good time to alleviate symptoms by temporarily sticking to a soft food or blended diet instead of trying to chew hard crunchy or chewy foods. Smoothies, shakes, mashed potatoes, macaroni, are all foods that don’t require intensive chewing (this also means staying away from chewing gum). You want to avoid those foods that make you open your mouth wide, like chewing corn on the cob or whole fruits. But you can cut the corn off the cob, chop or slice fresh fruits, and stick to eating cooked or steamed vegetables for now. These preventative measures can give your jaw joints an opportunity to rest and heal.
Tips to help relieve TMJ symptoms
– To help with pain management, you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications over the counter. If necessary, your doctor can assist by prescribing muscle relaxants or other stronger medications.
– Using ice packs or moist heat on the outside of your jaw area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day helps reduce pain and improve jaw function. Heat packs relax the jaw/face muscles and soothe stiff jaw joints while ice packs help numb pain and lower inflammation.
– Wearing a mouthguard or stabilization splint can reduce the impact from clenching and grinding your teeth which stress jaw joints and muscles.
– Practicing relaxation techniques such as guided meditation, creative visualization, or yoga can be helpful. Slowing your breath and taking deep, gentle breaths can help your body and jaw muscles relax.
– When you are sleeping, you can sleep more on your side with pillows to support the shoulder and neck areas.
– During waking hours, try to keep your muscles in your face relaxed and your upper and bottom teeth from touching–this helps with jaw clenching and grinding to relieve pressure on the jaw.
– Being mindful when you yawn can also help. Don’t yawn widely, and support your jaw with your fist when you do yawn. This can also keep the jaw from locking open.
– Practicing therapeutic jaw exercises raises mobility of the jaw and promotes healing.
Our team will work with you to optimize the treatment for a healthy, beautiful smile that will help relieve your pain. If you want to learn more about how we can treat you, please give us a call. We look forward to helping you find the relief you need with the quality care you deserve.