Although your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) may not be at the forefront of your daily thoughts, it’s important to know that you do use them a lot. These joints connect your jawbone to your skull, which means that your TMJ springs into action every time you talk, chew and swallow.
What is TMD?
TMD disorders occur when something goes wrong with your jaw joints and jaw muscles. This is most frequently caused by a jaw injury, inflammation due to arthritis, or overuse.
TMD disorders may cause mild to debilitating symptoms, including:
- Pain while chewing
- Pain in the ear, face, jaw or neck
- Grating or popping sounds in the jaw when you open or close your mouth
- Locking of the jaw joint
According to one 2010 study published in the Journal of Dental Research, performing TMJ exercises increases mouth opening range more than using a mouth guard in people with TMJ disc displacement. TMJ exercises are believed to relieve pain by:
- Strengthening jaw muscles
- Stretching the jaw
- Relaxing the jaw
- Increasing jaw mobility
- Reducing jaw clicking
- Promote jaw healing
TMJ Pain Relief
Here are several ways that you can ease and manage your TMJ pain:
- Consume soft foods and avoid chewy foods
- Share the wealth – try to use both sides of your mouth to chew
- Avoid chewing gum
- Refrain from opening your mouth too widely when possible (i.e. yawning)
- Don’t bite your cheeks or fingernails
- Reduce stressors and worry factors
- Apply a warm, damp washcloth to the joint
- Over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also help (taking any medication is best when advised by your doctor / dentist)
Below, you can find five exercises from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) that may help relieve TMJ pain and improve the movement of your jaw joints.
- Resisted mouth opening: Place your thumb or two fingers under your chin and open your mouth slowly, pushing up lightly on your chin with your thumb. Hold for three to six seconds. Close your mouth slowly.
- Resisted mouth closing: Place your thumbs under your chin and your two index fingers on the ridge between your mouth and the bottom of your chin. Push down lightly on your chin as you close your mouth.
- Tongue up: Slowly open and close your mouth while keeping the tongue touching the roof of the mouth.
- Side-to-side jaw movement: Place an object about one fourth of an inch thick (for example, two tongue depressors) between your front teeth. Slowly move your jaw from side to side. Increase the thickness of the object as the exercise becomes easier.
- Forward jaw movement: Place an object about one fourth of an inch thick between your front teeth and move the bottom jaw forward so that the bottom teeth are in front of the top teeth. Increase the thickness of the object as the exercise becomes easier.
If you’re experiencing TMJ pain, contact us to schedule an appointment. We’re here to ensure that your oral health is in good shape!