From eating to speaking, your mouth is an essential part of your body. When it hurts, it can have a huge impact on your mood and eating habits. There are many different reasons your jaw can be in pain, but one of the most common is due to temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Symptoms of TMD can include ringing in the ears, headaches, neck aches or limited mobility in the jaw, among others.
The only way to know for sure if you’re experiencing TMD is to have your dentist or orthodontist diagnose the problem. TMD has a variety of different causes, including stress, injury to the jaw, diseases, osteoarthritis or grinding your teeth. TMD can be incredibly painful, but there are some remedies you can try to relieve your symptoms.
Take Over-the-Counter Medications
Taking painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen could help relieve some of your TMD symptoms by reducing the pain and swelling in your joints.
Apply Heat and Cold
Applying a cold compress or ice to your jaw can help reduce swelling. This helps relieve pain and promotes faster healing. When you apply heat, it promotes blood flow and reduces tightness in the muscles. Depending on preference or how much swelling is occurring in your joints, you can opt for just cold, just heat or alternate between both. If you don’t have a cold compress or heating pad to use, you can make your own using household items.
Stop Grinding Your Teeth
If you find your jaw is tight and your teeth are grinding together in stressful situations, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to relax. If you’re unconsciously grinding your teeth in your sleep, and you can’t stop it, invest in a mouth guard to protect your jaw and your teeth.
Try Not to Chew So Much
One of the things that aggravates TMD is excessive chewing, including chewing gum, various candies and ice. However, you can also aggravate your TMD by chewing on nonfood items such as pens, pencils or straws. Any repetitive motion is going to irritate your already sore jaw, so keep the chewing motion to a minimum.
Opt for Soft Foods
Since you’re trying to reduce the amount of chewing you do, take advantage of eating soft foods to help alleviate the symptoms of TMD. Healthy options include fish, mashed potatoes, soups, yogurt, fruit smoothies and cooked vegetables, among others. With your jaw in pain, eating might sound like a chore, but it’s still important to maintain healthy eating habits so you can heal.
Try Not to Open Your Mouth Wide
If chewing can worsen your TMD, so can yawning or any other action that requires you to open your mouth wide. Refrain from singing or yelling so you don’t make your jaw worse.
If stress is the cause of your TMD symptoms, the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a way to relax. Consider taking a yoga class or learn to meditate. Slow down during the day and focus on one task at a time. Be conscious of how and when you feel the tensest, then take measures to let your body and mind relax.
If you’ve tried all these remedies and your TMD hasn’t gotten any better, talk to your dentist. You might need to try some other treatments, which could include the following.
Stronger Pain Medication
If the over-the-counter drugs aren’t helping relieve your TMD symptoms, your dentist may need to prescribe something stronger. Talk to them to find out what medication might work best for you.
If the cause of your TMD comes from an alignment issue with your jaw, you might need dental intervention to correct the problem. Your dentist will know for sure whether braces, crowns, bridges or implants will correct the issue. If your dental work is the cause of your TMD, you’ll need to let your dentist or orthodontist know you are experiencing discomfort and pain so they can adjust your dental work.
As mentioned above, if you grind your teeth, you may need to wear a guard to keep your jaw in line and to relieve the symptoms of TMD. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist to figure out what guard is best for you and when you should wear it. You may only have to wear it while you’re sleeping, but if the problem is severe enough, you might have to wear a bite guard more often.
A physical therapist can recommend stretches and exercises for your jaw to relieve pain and discomfort. Physical therapy will help you improve your jaw’s flexibility and range of motion, as well as giving you other skills to ensure your TMD doesn’t return.
It’s possible to have trigger point injections directly into your jaw joint to help relieve the symptoms of TMD. These injections usually consist of a corticosteroid or pain medication, which reduces inflammation, which in turn reduces pain.
This technique uses sound waves to penetrate deep into tissues to promote healing. It’s possible this treatment could promote healing deep in your jaw joint and muscles to reduce pain and discomfort.
Surgical intervention is a last-ditch effort after all other treatments have been exhausted. The amount of damage your jaw joints have sustained will dictate how severe the surgery will be. Talk to your dentist and get a second opinion before deciding if surgery is the best option for you.
Dealing with TMD can be debilitating and life-changing. Being in constant pain and unable to eat, sleep or talk properly can take its toll. Discussing the different treatment options with your dentist or orthodontist can put you on the path to recovery.