Treating Mild TMJ Pain
by Dr. Scott Bolding | Sept. 14, 2021
Tips for Treating Mild TMJ Pain at Home.
Here are some quick tips for treating mild TMJ pain:
- Take over-the-counter pain medications, like Tylenol or ibuprofen
- Use hot and cold compresses
- Give your jaw joint some time to rest
- Eat soft foods for awhile
If these treatments don’t help, you may need to talk to a doctor.
Now let’s learn a bit more about mild TMJ disorders.
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Treating Mild TMJ Pain
For some patients, TMJ pain can be a sign of something serious going on inside of the jaw joint. However, others have only a mild TMJ disorder. This mild TMJ pain should resolve itself over time. In either case, it’s important to make sure you treat your mild jaw pain early. Treating 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 deal with the pain of a mild TMJ disorder effectively. Other treatment options for mild TMJ pain include:
The most effective way to treat pain in any joint, even the jaw joint, is to make sure you let it rest. If you injure your knee, your doctor will tell you to rest it as much as possible. Rest allows the joint to heal.
Now you may be wondering how you can really rest your jaw joint. You have to eat, you have to speak. Using your jaw joint is almost unavoidable. And while it may be difficult to not use your jaw joint at all, there are ways to reduce the stress you put on the joint throughout the day.
The biggest way to give your TMJ a chance to rest is adjusting what you eat. Don’t chew gum for a while. Go on a soft food diet until the pain goes away.
Ice and Heat
As with any other injured or damaged joint, ice and heat can go a long way in treating your TMJ pain.
Ice, or cold therapy, helps reduce inflammation and pain by constricting the blood vessels and decreasing circulation to the joint. Cold therapy is good for bruised or swollen joints. When icing your jaw joint, simply apply a cold pack to the joint for 10-20 minutes several times a day until the pain goes away. You can use a gel pack or make your own with ice in a plastic bag. Make sure you wrap the ice pack in a towel before placing it on the joint.
Heat therapy actually works in the opposite way by improving circulation to the areas around the joint because of an increase in temperature. Increasing the temperature around the joint can help soothe sore joints and muscles. You never want to use heat therapy immediately after an injury, but you can use it to help relax a stiff jaw joint. When applying heat to your TMJ, you should follow a similar procedure to using ice. Simply apply a hot pack to your joint for 10-20 minutes several times a day. And make sure your hot pack is wrapped in a towel so you don’t burn your skin.
Mouthguards or Bite Braces
If these other conservative treatments don’t work for your mild TMJ pain, you can talk to your doctor about using a TMJ mouthguard or bite brace. A mouth guard acts like a brace for your knee or ankle by supporting your jaw joint. It is worn while you sleep and absorbs the pressure from the jaw joint, giving it a chance to rest during the night. Bite braces are a great option for people who tend to clench their jaws and grind their teeth. When considering a mouth guard for treating mild TMJ pain it’s important to make sure you get it prescribed by your dentist or doctor. Over-the-counter, “one-size-fits-all” mouthguards aren’t very effective for treating TMJ pain because they aren’t designed to fit with your unique mouth shape. And if a mouthguard doesn’t fit properly, it won’t do much good.
TMJ disorders – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2018, December 28). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350945
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15066-temporomandibular-disorders-tmd-overview
Nall, R. M. (2019, March 8). Understanding Jaw Pain: How to Find Relief. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/jaw-pain
Treat Mild TMJ Pain Early
For most people, mild TMJ pain should go away over the course of a couple of days. The key to making sure your pain doesn’t continue and the damage to your joint doesn’t progress. Many times the reason patients need surgery to treat their TMJ disorders is because they didn’t deal with it early. Like with all medical conditions, early treatment is key to avoiding something more serious.