Do you find yourself with a painful jaw whenever you open your mouth to speak, bite, or chew? If so, you may be experiencing temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ). It can happen if you have an injury to the mouth and jaw, suffer from arthritis, or even when you’re just trying to chew a piece of gum!
The problem lies with the temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to your skull. Not only could you experience pain when moving your jaw, but you might also hear a clicking, popping, or crackling noise when you chew your food. Along with pain while chewing, you can experience other signs indicating a problem with your TMJ.
What TMJ Looks Like
- Frequent headache, including migraines
- Pain in the ear, neck or back
- Unusual sounds including grinding, clicking or popping while using your jaw
- Hearing a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears
- Unable to move your jaw properly as the joint locks up
- Pain in the face
What’s Behind Your TMJ Pain
Your TMJ pain can arise from the following:
- A jaw injury
- An infection
- Misaligned teeth and jaw
- An autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or myasthenia gravis that affects facial movements and swallowing
Are You at Risk for TMJ?
You are at greater risk for incurring TMJ problems if you fit into any of these categories:
- Poor posture
- Constantly chewing gum
- You wear dental braces
- Bruxism (grind your teeth)
- History of dental surgery
- You tend to tighten your facial/ jaw muscles when you are stressed
- You are genetically predisposed to pain and sensitivity
The good news is if the pain is mild to moderate – depending on what’s causing your TMJ to hurt and the severity – you can treat the symptoms at home and find relief. Sometimes that is all it takes to heal on its own.
Start With At-Home Care
How to self-manage mild to moderate TMJ pain:
- Eat your way to pain relief by sticking to a soft foods diet that won’t exert your jaw joints. Stay away from sticky, chewy foods. Focus on consuming soups, stews, smoothies, mashed potatoes, soft pasta, applesauce, bananas and soft meats.
- Try some jaw exercises that gently stretch your jaw and facial muscles and massage these muscles. Our team can tell you more about some beneficial exercises if you want to learn more.
- Practice stress management techniques throughout your day to keep you from clenching your jaw muscles. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and guided imagery are all ways to train your jaw muscles to stay relaxed.
- Avoid yawning or yelling so that you don’t create harsh tension in your TMJ’s.
- Apply heat and cold therapy to inflamed TMJ symptoms by using warm, moist heat packs or ice packs to relax your facial and jaw muscles.
- Wear a bite guard to prevent bruxing your teeth. These oral appliances can prevent bruxing (if they feel painful or alter your bite itself, then you need to stop wearing it).
When to Get Professional Help
Treating mild to moderate TMJ with at-home care is fairly simple and safe to do. But if your TMJ symptoms don’t disappear with time, get worse, or the pain is so severe that you can’t eat or speak, then it’s time to call in professional help. Our team has the skills, technology, experience, and training to help you overcome all phases of TMJ treatment, including moderate to severe pain. We look forward to helping you find the solutions you need for a happy, healthy, pain-free smile.