Living with TMJ pain or discomfort can be very unpleasant. There are many reasons why people experience the symptoms of a TMJ disorder, and it is estimated that up to one third of the population experience some aches or tension in their temporomandibular joints.
For the majority of our patients with TMJ pain, we recommend a splint. A splint is an orthodontic appliance that is worn all the time. It helps to relax the muscles in your face and jaws, and it provides support for your lower jaw to minimize the pain you’re experiencing. It’s possible that some patients with very complex cases might require braces, and eventually even surgery.
There are a number of ways to manage the pain in the jaws, neck and head that is associated with TMJ disorders. Here are some of the most highly recommended methods.
Mild Pain Relievers
Taking a mild pain reliever should help to reduce any swelling or aching in your joints. Aspirin, Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen can also be effective if you’re experiencing discomfort in areas other than your jaw, like your neck or shoulders. If you are unsure, your orthodontist or pharmacist can recommend the best product and the correct dosage.
Physiotherapy and Massage
You could also try physiotherapy or massage to help the muscles in your face relax, leading to reduced pain over your course of treatment. A physiotherapist will also provide you with exercises you can do at home to help normalize the muscle activity in your jaw, and improve how your muscles and joints work together.
Heat and Ice
Using moist heat or ice can also reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Some patients find that their pain is minimized more effectively with one or the other, so we always recommend experimenting using a covered ice pack or a heating pad that’s been wrapped in a warm, damp cloth. Ice will reduce any swelling, and heat will help to relax your tense muscles. You can also alternate between the heat and cold, using each for ten minutes at a time. When using heat or ice, it’s important to be consistent as it will require dedication to have a long-lasting effect.
By eating soft foods, you’ll avoid exacerbating the symptoms and putting further strain on your temporomandibular joints. We know it can be frustrating to remove some of your favourite foods from your diet, but when you avoid crunchy, chewy, or dense foods you’ll experience less pain and discomfort. And you might even discover lots of new softer foods to enjoy!
We recommend adding stews, yogurt, rice, casseroles, and cooked vegetables into your diet, and avoiding large pieces of raw vegetables, nuts, bread, thick sandwiches, oatmeal, gum, or steak. Anything that requires a lot of chewing or causes you to strain to open your mouth wide, like whole apples or hamburgers, should be removed from your diet–at least temporarily.
Are you ready to learn more about treating TMJ? Download our FREE guide: What is TMJ Disorder? Diagnosis, Treatment Options and Pain Management. Or, book your free consultation!