In today’s busy and stressful world, the majority of people will at least occasionally experience some form of Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), commonly referred to as “TMJ.” With TMD, the joints and muscles associated with the jaw can develop inflammation and pain due to overuse and stress. You may notice that your jaw is sore when you wake up in the morning or at some point during the stressful portions of your day. This is an indication that you are likely clenching or grinding your teeth, contributing to the pain and discomfort. Here are a few tips to help alleviate the symptoms associated with TMD.
- Come see your dentist! While there is no quick cure for TMD, your dentist will be able to determine the cause of your pain and help provide a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
- If you (or most likely your spouse!) notice that you are grinding during the night, you can have a custom Occlusal Guard made to protect your teeth from further wear and help relieve pressure on your jaw joints.
- Determine the time(s) during that day that are most stressful and make a mental note to take a moment to relax and release the tension in your jaw muscles. Being aware of the habits that lead to TMD is the first step toward changing them!
- Avoid hard or chewy foods when your jaw is symptomatic, and limit habits like gum chewing or crunching ice, as these can exacerbate the problem.
- Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine acts as a muscle stimulant and can cause your jaw muscles to contract and hold tension. Instead of that morning cup of coffee, consider doing a few exercises and stretches to help you wake up and jump-start your day!
- Try sleeping on your back! Stomach or side sleeping can put a strain on the jaw and contribute to jaw pain when you wake up.
- When your TMD symptoms are really bad, use a combination of moist heat and gentle massage of the jaw muscles for 20 minutes up to 3-4 times per day.
- Anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen, Aleve, or Tylenol can help reduce inflammation of the muscles and joints and provide some relief. Use as directed on the bottle, and avoid using for long periods of time.
Remember, there is no cure for TMD, and you may need to use these methods throughout your life to manage the symptoms. Find the combination that works best for you, and don’t be frustrated if it takes time to see improvement. Please give us a call if you have any questions or would like some additional information about TMD or any other dental issues!