Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is an often painful condition affecting the joint at which the upper and lower jaw meet. Patients suffering from TMJ may experience a wide range of apparently unrelated symptoms, but after diagnosis and treatment, most sufferers find that their pain is dramatically reduced.
Know the TMJ Symptoms
TMJ is an umbrella term for a wide range of neuromuscular disorders that affect the temporomandibular joint. Often related to problems with a patient’s bite, TMJ disorders can cause a diverse set of symptoms that present in both the jaw itself and more systemically.
Some of the most common TMJ symptoms include:
- Popping noises when opening and shutting your mouth
- Pain and swelling in and around the temporomandibular joint
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- Difficulty chewing
- Frequent headaches
- Neck, back, and shoulder pain
The TMJ joint is a complex one that includes bi-directional movement (hinge plus sliding) that is aided by cartilage and a small disk. TMJ can result from problems with any of these elements, which in turn are damaged by improper bite mechanics.
Relieving TMJ Pain
Your treatment for TMJ usually starts with a diagnosis using one of our cutting-edge technologies, including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and K7. These diagnostic tools help us determine your jaw’s natural neutral position so that we can look for the bite-related causes of your pain.
Many TMJ patients benefit from wearing an orthotic device, either all day or just at night. Such devices help encourage your jaw to remain in its most natural position, reducing your TMJ symptoms. Patients who also grind or clench their teeth may wear a customized nightguard to prevent damage while you sleep.
Some patients may also benefit from certain dental restorations, including bridges, fillings, crowns, or dental implants to restore your bite to a more natural configuration.
Natural Ways to Relieve TMJ Pain
In addition to your treatment plan, there are other ways to relieve your TMJ pain in the meantime. To start, you can apply a moist heat pack wrapped in a towel to your jaw. This will reduce pain and also increase the function of your jaw. You can switch back and forth between moist heat and an ice pack. Make sure to also wrap the ice pack in a towel and only apply for 10 to 15 minutes.
To relieve TMJ pain, you can also avoid eating crunchy or chewy foods that require you to chew too much. For best practice, stick with soft foods for a few weeks to see if it reduces your pain. You should also avoid chewing gum as it overworks your jaw.
Patients can also find relief from taking over the counter pain medications, sleeping on their side, and practicing relaxation techniques. Reducing your stress through meditation, yoga, or a massage can help loosen up your TMJ joint and help you relax. You can also support your chin when you yawn to prevent your jaw from locking up.
With these natural remedies combined with an actual treatment plan designed by Dr. Clancy, you can expect to start experiencing relief in the next few weeks. It’s important to stay patient during the recovery time.
TMJ is a serious condition, but with the right approach, you can get your life back. Please contact the neuromuscular dentists at Cosmetic & Esthetic Dentistry today at (781) 396-8558 to arrange a TMJ consultation. We are pleased to serve patients in Woburn, Winchester, and the Greater Boston Area.