Are you looking for relief from your TMJs? Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, are the joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull, and they are the most used joints in your entire body. To operate properly with minimal impact on your teeth and jaw, your smile should be evenly balanced. This allows your jaw to glide smoothly in its joints as you bite, chew, speak, and yawn.
When your smile is imbalanced, either from crooked teeth, a malformed jawbone, or a dental injury, then your jaw’s smooth operation can be disturbed. As your TMJs and the muscles around them strain to maintain balance, the strain can damage them, leading to a wide range of possible symptoms that can be traced back to TMJ disorder—including chronic jaw pain.
The Challenges of Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
Pain is a signal received and transmitted to your brain through the nervous system. Eighty percent of the sensory input to your brain comes from your cranial nerves (the other twenty from your spinal column). The trigeminal nerve, which innervates your jaw, is the largest of twelve sets of cranial nerves. Aside from your jaw, its three branches also innervate your teeth, eardrum, and sinuses, and help control the blood flow to much of your anterior brain.
In the midst of TMJ disorder, inflammation can disturb the trigeminal nerve. The resulting discomfort can be transferred along the nerve, manifesting as chronic headaches, earaches, facial pain, and/or pain in your neck, shoulders, and back. Because of its diverse range of symptoms, many patients can endure their TMJ-related discomfort for years without successful treatment before discovering that the problem lies with a dental issue.
Is There Relief from TMJ Disorder?
An imbalanced jaw and the formation of TMJ disorder can result from a number of different sources. If your teeth are crooked, then the improper pressure distribution of your bite can strain your jaw’s components. If your jaw is malformed and uneven, then its joints and muscles will have to work harder to keep your mouth straight as it moves, also straining your jaw’s components. Typically, finding relief from TMJ disorder requires treating its underlying cause, and in severe cases, that may require reconstructive jaw surgery to restore your bite’s equilibrium.
Home Remedies for TMJ Disorder
While only professional treatments can guarantee relief from TMJ disorder, home remedies can work in conjunction with treatment at our Lake Forest dental practice. By following these simple steps, you can further lower the symptoms of TMJ disorder.
- Heat: A carefully heated wet towel or heat pack can relieve pain while improving jaw function. Take care to avoid potentially burning yourself.
- Ice: Ice packs lower inflammation while helping to numb the surface of your skin. As with heat, try to avoid direct contact between your skin and the cold back. Try wrapping the pack in a clean cloth. Limit contact with cold substances to 10 or 15 minutes at a time. We recommend experimenting with heat and cold. Some patients find that each helps during different times. Other patients prefer one over the other. Both can be effective at temporarily relieving discomfort.
- Avoid hard foods: Stop eating the foods that make your problems worse. Blended or soft food put less pressure on the TMJs. Trying soft foods such as mashed potatoes, bananas, and cooked vegetables can be both healthy and easy on your jaws. It is equally important to avoid hard foods that can strain jaw muscles. These food items include hard candies, crunchy foods, and tough cuts of meat. Another tip includes avoiding foods that require your jaw to fully open, which can cause TMJ symptoms to temporarily flare-up. These types of food include apples, corn on the cob, and large fruits and vegetables.
- Over-the-counter medications: Nonsteroidal, over-the-counter pain medicines can offer significant relief from discomfort without the risk of developing a dependency on the drug. If you have questions about which NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, you should use, Dr. Fondriest will be glad to recommend an effective over-the-counter medication for your TMJ symptoms.
- Home exercises: When conducted under the supervision of a trained therapist or doctor, slow, gentle jaw exercises can actually aid in increasing jaw mobility and healing. Recent studies have shown that properly done exercises can aid in lowering TMJ symptoms. Dr. Fondriest can recommend treatments or a good therapist.
- Deep breathing: Relaxation techniques can lower pain associated with TMJ disorder. Slow breathing, for example, modulates pain sensations while enhancing relaxation. Yoga, meditation, and massage are three examples of relaxation techniques.
- Other considerations: Sleep position, making a concerted effort to relax facial muscles, and being mindful of how yawning impacts your TMJs are other areas that TMJ disorder patients should be mindful of.
During your consultation at our Lake Forest dental practice, Dr. Fondriest will discuss other behaviors, such as jaw clenching and gum chewing, that could be aggravating your TMJs.
Gain relief from TMJ
TMJ is highly treatable. The vast majority of our patients do not require surgery to address their symptoms. Dr. Fondriest can provide you with a custom oral appliance that allows your jaw to relax at night. This easy-to-use device can also reduce your risk of developing worn teeth.
If you suffer from chronic craniofacial aches and pains and suspect the presence of TMJ disorder, then call us in Lake Forest, IL, today at 847-234-0517. Our practice mostly serves the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs, but we often get patients from all over the United States.