When it comes to treating TMJ pain, a lot depends on the severity of the symptoms. If the symptoms are mild and come and go, most of the time they will just go away on their own in a few weeks or sometimes months. In the meantime, there are some gentle, non-aggressive things you can do to alleviate the discomfort or TMJ/jaw pain and can even speed up the healing process.
Change your Diet
Avoiding hard, crunchy and chewy foods can go a long way to help with swelling and pain while giving your jaw joints some time to rest. This means no gum, raw vegetables, tough steaks or corn-on-the-cob, which force you to open your jaw wide when you try to bite into it. Sometimes you can cut these items into tiny, thin pieces, and cook or steam your vegetables to make them soft. Consuming blended or soft foods like soups, smoothies, yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, bananas, and macaroni and cheese give your jaw some leeway and allow it time to heal.
Habitually clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth (called bruxism) stresses the jaw joints and muscles until they hurt. Becoming aware of WHEN you are bruxing during the day can help you stop as soon as you notice yourself doing it, and the goal is to give your jaws a break. If you have trouble stopping this bruxing habit, you might need to wear a mouth guard or stabilization splint. This oral appliance is typically made of plastic and is worn over your upper and lower teeth. This keeps the teeth from touching and stressing the tooth enamel.
Over-the-counter medications can help with pain and swelling, especially pain relievers like Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, or Naproxen. Your doctor can also help you manage your stress by prescribing muscle relaxants, opiates, antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
– Practice yoga poses or gentle movement like Tai Chi
– Calm your breathing with slow, deep breaths
– Do a guided visualization or meditation
– Practice therapeutic jaw exercises or facial stretches to increase jaw mobility and support healing
– Learn to yawn mindfully; no yawning like a lion. Supporting your jaw with your fist under it can also keep it from locking open
Use Heat or Cold Therapy
Applying moist heat and ice for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day on the affected areas can relax your jaw muscles enough to ease the pain. You might want to experiment with both to see which one relieves your pain best as they work differently. Heat packs relax the muscles and jaw joints while ice packs numb pain and lessen inflammation.
If these measures aren’t helping your jaw feel better, it’s time to see our specialist, particularly if you notice the symptoms worsening. We are happy to help you with your jaw pain and look forward to hearing from you!