Causes of TMJ
You Don’t Need Surgery to Treat Mild TMJ Pain
How to Treat Mild TMJ Pain
For some patients, TMJ pain can be a sign of something serious going on inside of the jaw joint. However, for others pain in your jaw joint is mild and should resolve itself over time. In either case, it’s important to make sure you treat your jaw pain early. You need to treat mild TMJ pain early can reduce and even prevent more damage from occurring.
The jaw joint is just like the other joints in your body, like the knee, hip, or elbow. So, when you are experiencing pain in your TMJ you can treat it like you would treat an injury in your knee or elbow. Simple treatments like taking pain medication can help you treat mild TMJ disorder effectively.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about non-surgical treatment options for TMJ disorders. We will look at how to manage your pain with rest, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter pain medication. You will also learn about other conservative treatment options for TMJ disorders like mouthguards and orthodontics. By the end of this guide, you will walk away with a game plan to tackle your jaw joint pain. Of course, we encourage you to talk to your doctor or one of our specialists in order to map out the best plan for your unique case.
Table of Contents:
Do I Need to Treat Mild TMJ Pain?
One of the most common questions anyone asks when they injure themselves or start to feel pain is “Do I need to be concerned about this?” Maybe your throat is feeling scratchy and you wonder if you need to go to the doctor. Or you hurt your knee and think you can probably just walk it off.
And if you’ve been experiencing jaw joint pain you may be wondering if you need to do anything for it. Is it just mild pain that will go away on it’s own? Or do you need to take it more seriously? Do you need to treat mild TMJ pain?
Jaw Joint Pain Should be Treated Early
Like with any medical issue, TMJ disorders vary from person to person. The truth is most jaw joint pain doesn’t need to be treated surgically. But if you ignore your pain in the hopes that it will just go away, your TMJ disorder may progress to something more serious.
According to Dr. Bolding, “One of the things as surgeons, operating on the jaw joint and seeing as many patients as we do with TMJ disorders, is I really wish that we would treat these conditions earlier.”
We encourage patients who are dealing with TMJ issues to treat them early. If your TMJ disorder is mild, you should be able to treat it conservatively with over-the-counter pain medication and heat/ice therapy. Resting the joint by going on a soft food diet can also help prevent further damage.
However, if these treatments do not help you find the relief you’re looking for, you should talk to your doctor or a specialist as early as possible. Talk to someone who understands what is going on inside your jaw joint. They may be able to uncover the root cause and offer more suitable treatment options.
The Importance of Rest for Treating Mild TMJ Pain
As we’ve already discussed, the TMJ is just like the other joints in your body. And so when you injure it or experience pain, you need to treat it like your other joints. If you injure your knee for example, most doctors will tell you need to rest it. Resting your joint gives it the chance to heal. If you keep using your knee too much it will keep hurting. The same is true for your jaw joint.
A Soft Food Diet Can Help
The biggest way to let your jaw joint rest is by going on a soft food diet for a while. Hard, crunchy food makes your jaw work harder, which in turn, puts pressure on your jaw. This leads to inflammation, which leads to pain.
You should avoid food like:
- Sticky candy
- Hard, crusty bread
Along with soft food like potatoes, eggs, and soup, you should include food that can reduce inflammation. Some studies show that certain foods can help reduce inflammation naturally. An anti-inflammatory diet combined with other treatments can help people who are dealing with chronic or severe TMJ disorders.
Some great anti-inflammatory food includes:
- Fatty fish
Because it gives you a chance to rest your joints, a soft food diet is one of the best ways to treat mild TMJ pain.
Managing Pain to Treat Mild TMJ Disorders
Pain in your jaw joint is usually associated with inflammation. You can treat inflammation in your TMJ with over-the-counter medications (OTC), like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. OTC medications can be helpful in treating mild TMJ pain.
If you are experiencing jaw joint pain for the first time taking something like Tylenol can help relief your pain. Of course, if you continue to experience pain you should talk to your doctor about other treatment options.
Cold therapy and heat therapy are also helpful, non-surgical TMJ treatments. Applying ice and heat to the joint can help decrease inflammation and pain. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and hold it against the joint for 15-20 minutes. Ice helps numb the pain and reduces inflammation. You can also use a heat pack for the same amount of time. Heat will loosen your stiff TMJ and relax the sore muscles around your jaw.
Managing pain and inflammation is extremely helpful when you’re trying to treat mild TMJ pain. If there’s nothing serious going on with your joint the pain will go away over time.
Orthodontics as a Non-Surgical Treatment for TMJ Disorders
You can’t take a one-size fits all approach to TMJ disorders. It’s important to make sure treatment is based on a thorough diagnosis. Sometimes all you need is some pain medication and rest. But other times you may need something more to correct the issues in your jaw joint. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need surgery. Depending on your case, you may need to consider orthodontic work as a non-surgical treatment option for TMJ pain.
Sometimes jaw joint pain is caused by a misaligned bite. Your mouth depends on your jaw and your teeth to work together as a system. If one part of this system breaks down or isn’t working properly it can affect everything else. So, when your bite isn’t aligned correctly, it can have an impact on your jaw joint.
If you have an extremely misaligned bite your jaw will have to work harder in order to make up for it. This extra effort will cause the joint to wear down over time. Misalignment can also push everything else out of it’s natural position, meaning your jaw joint will have to work in a way it’s not designed to.
Orthodontics can help fix the issues with your bite, thus taking the pressure off of your jaw joint. However, it’s important to note that orthodontics is often one step in a treatment plan. Once you get your bite fixed, you will still need to address any damage that has been done to the joint itself. Ideally, your orthodontist should work together with the rest of your medical team to treat your TMJ disorder effectively.
Mouthguards as a Non-Surgical Treatment for TMJ Disorders
Mouth guards are a common non-surgical treatment option for TMJ disorders. And while we believe that mouth guards are effective treatments for TMJ disorders, they may not always be right for everyone. Like with any type of medical treatment, it’s important for you to get a very thorough diagnosis first. Your doctor should spend time inspecting your jaw joint so they can know for sure if a mouthguard will really work for you.
One of the most common causes of TMJ disorders is grinding your teeth, usually associated with stress and anxiety. Teeth grinding along with clenching the jaw puts extra pressure on the jaw joint. Mouthguards work by absorbing this pressure.
One of the advantages to using a mouthguard is that, even if just for a short period of time, they will inevitably protect your teeth against damage. Not only that, but any symptoms you may be facing–jaw pain, tenderness, ear aches, difficulty chewing, etc.–can potentially be treated with a mouthguard. Since the mouth guards we offer are all custom-made, they will also be more comfortable and durable than some alternative options.
What Kind of Mouthguard Should I Get?
When you’re looking for a mouthguard as a non-surgical treatment option for TMJ disorders it’s important to make sure you use one prescribed by your doctor. They do make over-the-counter mouthguards, however, those tend to not be as effective. In fact, they can do more harm than good. Since they are not designed specifically for your mouth, they won’t fit very well. Improper fit can cause your jaw muscles to respond poorly to it–which can cause additional pain and aggravation. Your teeth could also shift and create even more problems than before.
Custom made mouthguards prescribed by your doctor are designed for your mouth. Of course they will have a better fit, which means they will work better. They also tend to be more durable than an OTC option.
Signature Dental. (n.d.). Non-Surgical TMJ Treatment. https://www.signaturedentalwi.com/procedures/tmj-treatment/non-surgical
Hill, J. (2022, April 30). Can TMJ be fixed without surgery? Minnesota Head & Neck Pain Clinic. https://mhnpc.com/2021/09/30/can-tmj-be-fixed-without-surgery/
TMJ disorders – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2018c, December 28). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350945
You Can Treat Mild TMJ Without Surgery
Each individual is unique and each problem is unique. The only way to know if a non-surgical TMJ treatment is right for you, is to talk with a TMJ specialist.
At PRECiDENT, we believe in making sure you get a solution that actually works for you. We will take the time to thoroughly diagnose your TMJ disorder and guide you into the right decision. If you want know more about non-surgical TMJ treatment options, we would be happy to schedule a consultation with you.