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Self Care Advice for TMJ Disorder & Jaw Pain

Self Care Advice for TMJ Disorder & Jaw Pain

Professional treatment is the first step in obtaining relief from jaw pain and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. But after that, it’s up to you to take good care of your jaw joints so they can heal. Even after treatment, your jaw is still in a fragile state. It has endured a tremendous amount of stress and needs to be properly rested. Resting your jaw allows it to heal, stabilize, and regain functionality.
It’s important that you exercise caution in the following weeks so that your jaw and chewing system can recover. Your ability to obtain long term relief and regain optimal dental health is dependent on your jaw’s ability to heal.

10 Useful TMJ Self-Care Tips

The following TMJ self-care tips can help you along the path to recovery. Taking good care of your jaw will help it heal properly so that you can experience lasting TMJ pain relief.

1. Allow your jaw to rest and relax: Resting your jaw after treatment is vital to your recovery. When your jaw is allowed to rest, your chewing muscles relax, taking stress off your TMJs (jaw joints). This way, your jaw joints can heal and your chewing system can regain stability.

2. Avoid straining or overworking your jaw: Try to keep your jaw joints and muscles from working too hard. Avoid sticking out your jaw, applying pressure, or opening your mouth too wide. At night, try sleeping on your back instead of your side or stomach to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on your jaw. When flossing or brushing your teeth, eating, or yawning, avoid opening your mouth any wider than necessary. Don’t stick out your jaw to inspect your teeth, put on lip balm, or apply makeup.

3. Avoid hard and crunchy foods. When I have a patient that is dealing with or recovering from TMD, I always advise them to stick to a soft food diet. Soft foods like yogurt, rice, pasta, beans, eggs, and cooked vegetables do not put as much strain on the jaw as hard, crunchy foods. Avoid eating foods like nuts, potato chips, and raw, uncooked carrots or broccoli. Whenever possible, try to avoid biting into foods with your front teeth. Instead, use a fork and knife to cut your food into pieces. Then, use your back teeth to chew.

4. Make a habit of keeping your teeth apart: Try to make a habit of keeping a small space between your teeth. A good mantra is “lips together, teeth apart.” The only time your teeth should come together is when you’re eating. Try to be conscious of jaw clenching. Whenever you notice you are clenching your jaw, make a point to consciously relax your jaw and create a space between your teeth.

5. Sit up straight and practice good posture: Slouching and poor posture also put unnecessary strain on your jaw. Try to make a habit of maintaining good posture and spinal alignment when you’re standing, sitting, and lying down. Doing this will help relax your jaw and facial muscles.

6. Use heat and massages to relax muscles and reduce pain: Whenever you have a TMJ flare-up and pain returns, try using heat and massage to subdue your symptoms. Massage stimulates blood flow which aids in healing. Applying moist heat can help reduce inflammation and allow your muscles to relax.

7. Moist heat should be applied twice daily: Moist heat applications should be used two times each day for intervals of half an hour. Try putting a damp washcloth in the microwave, then applying it to the affected area. Apply for ten minutes, remove and wait five minutes, and then reapply to start the process over again. This process should be completed for a total of three times.

8. Massage the area gently when pain occurs: Gentle massages can help soothe spasming muscles and reduce pain. Apply low to moderate pressure in a kneading motion over the affected area.

9. Take medication when necessary: If you were prescribed medication as part of your treatment plan, it’s important that you follow the instructions and take it as directed. Additionally, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can also help with pain. Examples of these medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. If you must avoid these medications for health reasons, take acetaminophen instead. Acetaminophen can be taken once every 4-6 hours as needed.

10. Wear a mouthguard at night: If you were prescribed a mouthguard, it’s important that you wear it as directed. For most people, teeth grinding and clenching worsens at night. Wearing a mouthguard while you sleep can help your jaw muscles relax and prevent teeth grinding.

More About Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center

Dr. Michael Gallagher and our Eden Prairie Dentistry team are committed to providing exceptional care and empowering our patients with information about their dental health. If you have any questions about our services or would like to schedule an appointment, we invite you to give us a call at (952) 942-9600. The outstanding experience of our dental team, Dr. Gallagher, and the skills of our staff have helped us in successfully treating our patient’s oral problems. We’re always welcoming new patients throughout Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Bloomington, Minnetonka, Edina, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Burnsville, Plymouth, Eagan, Richfield and surrounding areas. For more information, please contact us!

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