When you think of the most commonly used joints in your body, you might not think of the temporomandibular joints–the jaw and skull bones and joints that allow us to speak, chew, drink, and swallow. Unfortunately, these joints can suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, as a result of orthodontic work, dental work, or shifting of the teeth over time. TMJ can result in pain when drinking, eating, or talking. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to treat this pain. Here are six ways to treat TMJ:
1. Temporary Pain Relief Medications
Many people suffering from TMJ turn to pain relief medications as the first way to combat pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can temporarily reduce the pain in the jaw and may even reduce inflammation. However, this method should not be relied on for months or years exclusively and should be a temporary or occasional way to deal with pain. Since pain relief medications treat the symptoms rather than the problem, they are not meant to be the only treatment for TMJ.
2. Jaw Exercises
One way to strengthen the joints and muscles in the jaw, and potentially to reduce pain, is to perform regular jaw exercises. These exercises might include simple motions like opening and closing your mouth, or it might consist of special devices that build up the muscles over time. If these cause extreme pain, they should be avoided. Always speak with your dentist before beginning a jaw exercise regimen if you have TMJ.
3. Avoiding Painful Actions
Many people have minor symptoms associated with TMJ and can avoid most pain by abstaining from certain actions. If this applies to you, try avoiding sucking out of a straw, chewing gum, singing, or even yawning. In some cases, avoiding these actions will significantly reduce or even eliminate the pain associated with TMJ.
4. Reduce Stress Naturally
There is significant research that suggests that TMJ is caused in part by clenching the jaw unnecessarily, an action that is often caused by stress. If you lead a stressful life, there are steps you can take to reduce stress and therefore jaw pain. Consider beginning a regular exercise routine, daily meditation, a reduced workload at your job, or even calming techniques when you feel pain or stress coming on.
5. Mouth Guards
These plastic apparatuses are placed in the mouth and prevent the jaw from tightening up or grinding teeth while the user is sleeping. Although these mouth or bite guards are simple, they can often prove to be very effective.
6. Visit Your Dentist
Ultimately, the best way to deal with TMJ is to speak directly with your dentist. A dentist can identify the cause of your TMJ pain, helping you to determine how best to treat it. Surgery may be an option, but only your dentist can help you make that decision.
TMJ can be an incredibly painful condition, but there are many steps you can take to reduce pain. Visit your dentist to learn more and find out how to reduce or eliminate your own pain.
Abigail Thorpe is a freelance blogger who writes about oral health. If you live in the Bellevue, WA area, you can book an appointment online with a dentist in Bellevue for a normal cleaning.