What Can Be Done About TMJ Pain?
The temporomandibular joints hold a very important purpose in our lives. They are what let us move our mouth! They let us talk, eat, smile, sing, laugh, yawn, and much more. When they are painful or stiff, they can give us difficulty with some or all of these things. TMJ dysfunction, or TMD, is what occurs when the temporomandibular joints do not function as they should. They can cause pain in your jaw, your face, your ears, your neck and even your shoulders. Your jaw may become stuck or “locked” in one place, you may hear clicking with movement, there may be swelling, or a tired feeling in your surrounding muscles. More severe cases can cause dizziness, headaches, and hearing problems.
Fortunately, many dental offices are equipped to help patients with TMJ troubles. In addition to lifestyle recommendations, many dental offices can create night guards which are mouthguards worn while the patient sleeps to prevent grinding and clenching at night.
Along with getting proper care and attention at a dental office, there are some tips to keep in mind at home to reduce pain and stiffness due to TMJ dysfunction.
To stretch your jaw: Place your thumb underneath your chin and gently press up while you gently open your mouth halfway. Repeat this movement ten times. The resistance should help give the area a stretch.
To improve range of motion: Gently open and close your mouth a few times each morning and each night. Open it as wide as you can so you feel a stretch, but no pain. Over time, you will notice you are able to open your mouth more and more.
To relax the jaw and the surrounding muscles: smile as big as you can while keeping your jaw open about two inches. Leave your smile there for a few breaths and then relax your face. Repeat this exercise a few times.
Foods to Avoid Eating
There are certain foods that take a lot of work for the jaw and these foods can cause a TMJ flare-up. To avoid this from happening, here are some foods you should stay clear of:
Chewy foods: these can include chewy candies like caramel and gummies. It can also include tough-to-chew meats. A way around this is to choose more tender meats. If you want seafood, choose more tender fish instead of chewy shellfish.
Hard and crunchy foods: hard foods include things like uncooked carrots or other raw veggies. Since veggies are still important to get in, try cooking them to make them softer. Crunchy foods to steer clear up may include chips and popcorn. If you need a salty snack, try a softer, salted cracker.
While TMD can cause major pain and annoyances, there are ways to avoid flare-ups. If TMD is affecting your life, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist to see what can be done to help you.