The human body has two temporomandibular joints (TMJ), one on each side of the head, that connects the jawbone to our skull. Sometimes a pain disorder can arise in one or both of these joints, most often due to issues related to chewing or various forms of arthritis. While some people can manage pain better than others, here are several ways to cope with pain from a TMJ disorder.
1. Physical Exercises
There are several exercises that a TMJ patient can engage in to either stop or reduce the jaw pain that can flare up. Said exercises entail various movements of the tongue and jaw, and the purpose of these exercises is to:
- Strengthen the muscles that involve the jaw.
- Stretch out and relax the jaw.
- Enhancing the mobility of the jaw.
- Diminishing the frequency of clicking around the jaw.
- Improve the body’s ability to heal the jaw.
2. Mouth Guards
While a person has greater control of what their body does when awake, sometimes the pain of TMJ can flare up while the patient is asleep-potentially waking them up from the surge. To that end, you may wish to look into a mouthguard.
There are two main varieties of mouth guard that are relevant to coping with TMJ, though their functions may have some overlap, depending on the specific model.
- Models that stop you from grinding teeth or clenching your jaw, especially when asleep.
- Models that are designed to realign the jaw, potentially removing the TMJ with enough use.
3. Changing Your Lifestyle
Just as certain behaviors contribute to TMJ, other behaviors can be practiced to lessen or avoid painful TMJ issues.
- Changing your diet to focus on soft foods. The less important your jaws become, the more the joints can relax.
- Abstain from chewing gum.
- Avoid biting and chewing upon your nails and/or lower lip. While these behaviors may arise when you feel stressed or worried, cutting those behaviors out may lead to relief in the long term.
- Work on your posture. Good posture can put less stress upon the jaw, and a relaxed jaw means TMJ pain happens less often.
- Try to minimize wide movements of the jaws. Activities like yawning and singing are prime examples of the sort of jaw movement that should be avoided.
4. Dental Adjustments
One consequence of TMJ is that it can turn the process of caring for your teeth into an ordeal. Fortunately, there are several approaches to brushing, flossing, and otherwise cleaning your teeth that exist for people suffering from TMJ.
- Switch out a rigid toothbrush for one with either soft bristles or engineered as a sonic toothbrush. These sorts of brushes place less pressure on the jaws than a regular toothbrush, and pressure is the main way that TMJ pain flares up.
- If flossing proves difficult because the pain flares up upon opening the mouth, consider using either a rubber tip stimulator or even a water flosser to clean out the spaces between your teeth in lieu of dental floss.
- Incorporate antiseptic mouthwash into daily dental care.
- Press ice or heat against the problematic area after undergoing a dental procedure.
5. Consult a Professional
If you happen to be dealing with a level of pain that seems to exceed the pain mitigation of at-home approaches, there are medical facilities that specialize in TMJ treatment, and in other areas of the country.
These facilities can give a thorough analysis of your specific manifestation of TMJ and work with you to conceive a solution to any pain you may be suffering from whenever you operate your jaw.
Breaking Things Down
TMJ is an unpleasant condition within the human mouth, but the pain that arises from this condition can be managed.
While you may be able to get by with some meaningful physical exercises, you can also change your way of living or caring for your teeth in small ways or purchase a mouth guard.
If your TMJ pain continues to be excessive, you might consider seeking treatment from medical professionals.
Lizzie Howard is a Colorado native who after graduating from the University of Colorado spends her time as a freelance writer. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics; particularly health. If you are struggling with TMJ or sleep apnea, Lizzie recommends seeking TMJ treatment in Raleigh, NC. When she isn’t writing, Lizzie enjoys going on hikes, baking for her friends and family, and spending time with her beloved yellow lab, Sparky.