The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects our jaw (mandible) to the temporal bones on each side of our skull. The TMJ gets a lot of use all day, every day. It allows us to speak and chew, two activities most people enjoy (again, a lot!). The TMJ is prone to TMD; that is, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) symptoms include:
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints and/or pain in your jaw
- Aching pain in and around the ear or ears (the temporal bone area)
- Locking of the TMJ, including the jaw slipping in and out of joint
- Brief hyperextension of the jaw
- Pain in the TMJ or jaw while chewing.
Non-drug TMJ Therapy at Dental Wellness of Suffern, NY
Nonsurgical and non-drug therapies for TMJ disorder include:
- Physical therapy. PT can be done at home. Your dentist can teach you how to do jaw exercises that will strengthen muscles and ease joint pain.
- Oral splints or mouth/teeth guards. Although it’s not understood why it works, therapy with a firm or soft oral split placed over the teeth relieves TMJ pain for some. A night guard is a kind of mouth guard worn during sleep to relieve pressure on the joint caused by tooth grinding.
- Education for home care. Your dentist can help you identify behaviors that can worsen your TMJ pain. Biting your fingernails, clenching your teeth, grinding your teeth while you sleep (bruxism), biting your pen, pencil, or other objects are behaviors that harm the TMJ.
- When experiencing TMJ pain, switch over to softer foods. Never chew ice! Avoid chewy foods and chewing gum. Avoid excessively wide opening of the mouth when yawning.
- Your dentist can teach you how to stretch your jaw and perform muscle stretching exercises safely. As well, your dentist can show you how to massage the TMJ and jaw muscles to alleviate pain.
- Moist heat applied to the TMJ can relieve pain. A brief application of an ice pack can help too.
Other TMJ Therapies
There are a number of other therapies, including steroid therapy and surgical options. To find out what works best for your pain, visit Dental Wellness of Suffern, NY.