Do you ever feel like you are clenching and grinding your teeth often? Or does your jaw pop and click when you open your mouth? It might be possible that you have Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).TMD is a result of problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone.
Symptoms of TMD:
- Pain and tenderness in the face, jaw area, neck when you open your mouth wide.
- Limited ability to open your mouth wide.
- Jaw-lock when you have open or closed your mouth.
- Difficulty chewing.
This is not a conclusive list of symptoms of TMJ, and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact your dental professional for a consultation. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and you’re looking for a way to relieve some of the ache, there are some self-care ways that can relieve it. People diagnosed with TMJ are often suggested to try out these methods before talking about surgery and more intense procedures.
- Gear your diet toward the soft side. Eat more yogurt, scrambled eggs, soups, and smoothies. Try and limit yourself from eating raw vegetables, big burgers, and chewing gum. Any food that could require your mouth to open wide or chew often, these are foods that you want to avoid. The key to these self-care techniques is to give your jaw a rest. And keep in mind, that you’ll probably want to do this for a few weeks, it might be a slow process, but it may really help with the pain.
- Applying a moist heat pack or cold pack. It is really about preference, so try both and see which one reduces swelling and improves your jaw movement. Apply the hot or cold pack 10-15 minutes daily. If you need a heat pack idea: use uncooked rice in a tube sock and then microwave.
- Reduce teeth grinding and clenching. Whether you’re just reducing the amount of grinding and clenching or you resolve this problem completely, this will also give your jaw and muscles much needed rest. You can try relaxation techniques to control muscle tension; a lot of times emotional tension can go straight to the jaw and you find yourself clenching your teeth a lot. Change in sleep position and stress reduction can reduce teeth grinding.
- Avoid extreme jaw movements. Do I have to reiterate how important it is to keep your jaw rested? Maybe third time’s the charm. Avoid or reduce extreme jaw movements like singing, yelling, and yawning. I know the last one will be difficult, yawning is contagious! If you are doing these extreme jaw movements, you may also want to gently massage the jaw afterward.
- Practice good posture. Even now, I can tell you that my posture is poor, and my back and neck will ache because of it. Try to avoid slouching, leaning into the computer, and resting the phone on your shoulder. This puts strain on your back, neck, and jaw, which can contribute to TMJ.
Try some of these techniques and know that it may take some time to relieve the pain. If you still exhibit the same symptoms and feel pain in your jaw, you might want to contact an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to do a full evaluation.
Thu Nguyen is writing on behalf Austin Oral Maxillofacial Surgery. She doesn’t have TMD, but she’s going to work on her posture for sure.