If you find yourself experiencing TMJ symptoms that are mild and infrequent, they often go away on their own. This sometimes can take weeks or months depending on what you do to help it dissipate.
This is a good time to help alleviate symptoms by temporarily sticking to a soft food or blended diet instead of trying to chew hard crunchy or chewy foods. Smoothies, shakes, mashed potatoes and macaroni are all foods that don’t require intensive chewing (of course, this also means staying away from chewing gum). You will also want to avoid those foods that make you open your mouth wide, like corn on the cob or whole fruits. But you can cut the corn off the cob, chop or slice fresh fruits, and stick to eating cooked or steamed vegetables for now. These preventative measures can give your jaw joints an opportunity to rest and heal.
Gentle, non-aggressive treatments can make a huge difference as the symptoms have time to subside. To help with pain management, you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications over the counter. If necessary, your doctor can assist by prescribing muscle relaxants or other stronger medications.
Using ice packs or moist heat on the outside of your jaw area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help with pain management and improve jaw function. Heat packs work by relaxing the jaw/face muscles and soothing stiff jaw joints whereas ice packs help numb pain and lower inflammation.
If necessary, you might see your dentist or us for an oral appliance to wear over the teeth to help alleviate symptoms. Nightguards can be worn while you sleep, or you might wear a mouthguard or stabilization splint to prevent clenching and grinding.
If you deal with stress by clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, you may benefit from practicing relaxation techniques, including guided meditation, creative visualization, or yoga. Slowing your breath and taking deep, gentle breaths can help you relax and lessen your experience of painful sensations.
When you are sleeping, it can help to sleep on your side with pillows to support the shoulder and neck areas. During waking hours, try to keep your muscles in your face relaxed and your upper and bottom teeth from touching; this assists with preventing jaw clenching and grinding to relieve pressure on the jaw.
Being mindful when you yawn can also make a big difference. Don’t yawn widely, and support your jaw with your fist when you yawn. This can also keep the jaw from locking open. And finally, you might benefit from practicing therapeutic jaw exercises to raise mobility of the jaw and promote healing.
If you are dealing with temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, we encourage you to take good care of your health and practice healthy habits that reduce stress. If your at-home measures aren’t providing you with relief, you may want to have a TMJ specialist such as ours to evaluate your jaw with a consultation. Our team of TMJ specialists has extensive experience and excellent results treating patients with this condition. Together, we can help you get the quality treatment and care you deserve.