Get Relief From Your TMJ Disorder Symptoms with These at Home Treatments
Your TMJ pain can be treated.
TMJ is anything but fun, as people with TMJ know. It can stand in the way of quality of life, making it hard to talk, eat, relax, or even sleep. If you’re afflicted with TMJ, you’re probably on the hunt for any way out—and that’s completely understandable. You may think treating TMJ requires surgery or expensive treatments, and while professional care may be the best course of action in a lot of cases, there are some TMJ treatments you can do at home to alleviate your symptoms.
It may seem like chewing could be a good resolution to TMJ—after all, repetitive motion could potentially loosen the joint. Alas, that’s rarely the case. Chewing a lot, like gum between meals, or eating foods that require extensive chewing, like thick breads, tough steak, and gummy candy, can actually be bad for your TMJ. The more you chew, the more likely you are to exacerbate the condition, which can lead to worse outcomes in the end. Whenever possible, avoid excessive chewing and, when necessary, switch to a soft-food diet.
This means avoiding straws and ice cubes, too—two big offenders for unconscious chewing. Err on the safe side and enjoy beverages in cans, bottles, or uncapped cups, and avoid eating any of the ice you may find in a soft drink, iced coffee, or iced tea.
Get Enough Rest and Reduce Stress
For many people, TMJ symptoms worsen during periods of high stress. This means hard times at work or interpersonal struggles can result in increased pain and mobility challenges. It’s not always possible to escape all stress, but the more you can control it, the better. Consider things like yoga, meditation, therapy, and journaling to best manage the effects.
Sleeping is a great way to heal your body and your mind, too. For those living with TMJ, getting enough sleep is paramount. When sleeping, do your best to choose positions that put the least amount of pressure on your face. Sleeping on your back with pillows supporting your neck is the best way to get restful sleep without exacerbating symptoms. If you choose to sleep on your side, make sure your neck is properly supported and your hands aren’t propped under your head.
Try At-home Exercises
While chewing is unlikely to result in anything other than increased pain, there are at-home mouth and jaw exercises you can do to address the side effects of TMJ. These include:
Instead of holding your mouth closed, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, then relax the jaw muscles. Hold your mouth like this for as long as is comfortable.
As the name implies, goldfish exercises involve opening and closing your mouth. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth to relax the muscles and place your fingers in front of your ears near where the joints are. Practice opening your jaw partially and then fully.
With a straight spine, pull your chin and neck as far back as you can and hold for several seconds before returning to an upright position.
Resisted opening and closing
Squeeze your chin with your thumb and index finger. Open and close your mouth with light pressure in opposition.
Place a thin item, like a tongue depressor, craft stick, or straw between your teeth. Practice moving your jaw side to side as well as forward and back. When this movement becomes painless, increase the thickness of the item and continue jaw movements.
Explore Self Remedies
In severe pain? Having trouble caring for your teeth? There are ways to improve quality of life and at-home tooth care, including:
Hot cold therapy
Hot cold therapy involves alternating between heating and cooling packs to the head, neck, or jaw in 15- to 20-minute intervals. This strategy is best employed for immediate pain relief and is popular among those with chronic TMJ.
When TMJ is standing in the way of good oral hygiene, you could be at risk of other oral health problems. Instead of trying to floss normally, consider oral irrigators or rubber tip stimulators.
Correct Bad Habits
Believe it or not, a lot of little things you do that you don’t think about, like slouching, biting your nails, clenching your teeth, or resting your head on your hands or shoulders, can contribute to TMJ discomfort. Try to stay conscious of your posture or whether you bite your nails when you’re nervous or bored, and take steps to actively address bad habits that may be impacting your ability to manage your TMJ.
Talk to Your Dentist
While there are many things you can do to alleviate TMJ symptoms at home, sometimes professional interference is a must. Your dentist can create custom oral appliances to be used throughout the day and while asleep to treat your symptoms. In addition, if a malocclusion is contributing to TMJ, Dr. Oxley can help you with a plan for a straighter, healthier smile, like braces or Invisalign.
Jaw pain can be debilitating for people who have TMJ, but you don’t have to suffer in silence. By making several small lifestyle changes and seeing your dentist for treatment options, you can address TMJ in a safe, healthy, and pain-free way. From exercises to oral implements, there are plenty of ways to ameliorate your discomfort.
If you think you may be suffering from TMD, get in touch with us at Oxley Comprehensive Dentistry so we can help alleviate your pain today.