As many as 12 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, a collection of more than two dozen medical issues that interfere with the way your jaw joints work. Without proper treatment, TMJ issues can cause permanent joint damage and lead to chronic headaches, facial pain, and bite malfunction.
At Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center in Oakland, California, Brandon Kang, DDS, is a top-rated provider of TMJ therapies aimed at relieving pain and correcting the underlying joint problem in his patients. In this post, learn what causes TMJ pain and what simple steps you can take today to help relieve your symptoms.
Why TMJ pain happens
The temporomandibular joints are like hinges located on each side of your jaw. They form where the temporal bone of your skull attaches to your lower jaw or mandible.
Inside each joint is a tiny disc that absorbs shocks and facilitates normal movement. TMJ pain happens when the joint structure becomes irritated, inflamed, or damaged.
Several issues can cause or contribute to TMJ problems, including:
- Teeth grinding
- Poor bite alignment
- Traumatic facial injury
- Diseases affecting your joints or connective tissues
Sometimes, the cause of TMJ problems isn’t known.
Relieving TMJ pain
TMJ pain rarely resolves on its own. Before recommending any type of therapy, Dr. Kang reviews your symptoms and performs a thorough oral exam, including diagnostic imaging to evaluate your jaw joints and overall oral and facial structures.
Many patients with TMJ pain benefit from medical interventions like Botox® injections to relax overactive muscles or minimally invasive procedures to clean or repair the joints. Dr. Kang may use another minimally invasive technique called arthroscopy to see inside your joints before recommending a treatment plan. In the meantime, these home remedies may help.
Use a night guard
Teeth grinding places a tremendous amount of pressure on your jaw joints, and the worst part is, many of us grind our teeth during sleep, so we’re powerless to stop it. Wearing a night guard helps relieve pressure on your jaw joints while protecting your teeth too. Dr. Kang provides custom-made guards for optimal comfort and protection.
Apply heat and cold
Alternating a heating pad and a cold compress on your jaw area helps reduce inflammation inside your joint while also relaxing tense jaw muscles. Apply each for 15-20 minutes at a time, and if you use an icepack, be sure to wrap it in a cloth first to avoid damaging your skin.
Perform gentle massage
Massaging your jaw area using gentle, circular motions helps relax tight muscles and relieve strain in the area. Dr. Kang might recommend gentle jaw exercises to improve your jaw function while supporting healing.
Practice relaxation techniques
Chronic stress is a daily reality for many of us, and all that tension can lead to tight jaw muscles, as well as grinding and clenching habits. Incorporating stress management, like deep breathing or meditation, into your daily routine can help reduce stress on your jaw joints and improve your overall wellness.
Try a soft diet
Very sticky, chewy, or hard foods make your jaws work overtime when you bite and chew. Focusing on soft foods gives your jaw joints a chance to relax and heal while avoiding excess joint movement and irritation.
Get professional help early
While these DIY solutions can provide temporary relief, like other jaw problems, TMJ pain tends to worsen without medical treatment. Seeking treatment at the first sign of jaw pain or stiffness is the best way to protect your jaw joints and prevent the problem from progressing.
To learn how we can help with your TMJ pain, book an appointment with Dr. Kang online or over the phone today.