Jaw pain or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain can really interfere with your quality of life. It can make it difficult to enjoy your favorite foods and also lead to a long list of woes, from headaches to a stiff neck. If you’re having some symptoms that could be a sign of a TMJ disorder, here are some tips to help you relieve the pain.
What is a TMJ?
Your temporomandibular joint is located in your jaw. It connects your jawbone to your skull and allows you to open and close your mouth and slide your jaw from side to side. It is a very SPECIAL joint because it is the only jaw that hinges AND slides! When you experience pain in your jaw, it is often related to a TMJ disorder (TMD). It can not only hurt but also cause stiffness of the jaw muscles and interference with proper jaw function. Symptoms of a TMJ disorder might include:
- Painful chewing
- Ear, face, jaw, and/or neck pain
- Clicking sounds from the jaw
- A grating or popping sound or sensation in the jaw when opening or closing your mouth
- Jaw joint locking
If you experience any of these signs, you probably have a TMJ disorder.
Why do some people experience TMJ pain or TMD and others do not?
We are all built differently and experience different things in our lives that can contribute to TMD
- Trauma – even a car accident 15 years prior can contribute!
- Improper fitting of the jawbone into the skull
- Tongue Tie
- Muscle tension
- History of orthodontics or jaw/mouth surgery
- Change in jaw height from wearing down the biting surfaces of your teeth (grinding)
Exercises for TMJ Pain Relief
If you do suffer from TMJ disorder symptoms, you can try the following exercises:
- Relaxed jaw exercise: Keep your tongue resting gently at the top of your mouth with your teeth slightly apart to keep your jaw relaxed (your tongue should LIVE at the roof of your mouth when not chewing!)
- Partial opening: With your tongue at the roof of your mouth place a finger in front of your ear and another on your chin applying slight pressure. Allow your jaw to drop halfway and then close your mouth. Repeat six times six times a day.
- Chin tucks: Put your chin in a position to create a double chin and hold for three seconds. Repeat 10 times.
- Resisted opening of the mouth: Open your mouth slowly while applying gentle pressure to your chin with your thumb. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly close your mouth.
- Resisted closing of the mouth: Open your mouth and hold your chin as you slowly close your mouth applying gentle pressure to your chin.
- Tongue ups: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and open and close your mouth slowly a few times.
- Jaw movement: Find an object about ¼ inch thick to place between your upper and lower front teeth. Move your jaw back and forward and side to side. As your jaw becomes less stiff you can increase the thickness of the object. Make sure you use something that won’t damage your teeth such as tongue depressors.
Doing these exercises daily will strengthen the muscles around your jaw and help you find some relief.
Another more direct treatment to relieving jaw pain is a TMJ splint. These customized splints can be worn to help you find the optimum position for your bite. Since there are quite a few common types of splints, a dentist can help determine which is required for your needs. It can take a few months for this treatment to work (as it retrains your muscles to hold your bit in the proper way, and many times we are unraveling YEARS of damage), but it is well worth it if the issue can be resolved.
Repositioning the Jaw
If simple exercises or TMJ splints don’t relieve the pain over time, realignment or repositioning of the jaw can optimize position and reduce the strain that can cause discomfort. You can meet with us for an assessment to determine which treatment will be most effective to help in the repositioning process.
Interested in learning more about TMJ relief? Schedule your next appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Turner here and she’ll get to know you and evaluate your unique needs.
To learn more about our restorative dentistry services, visit this page here.