Treating Mild TMJ Pain
by Dr. Scott Bolding | Sept. 14, 2021
Tips for Treating Mild TMJ Pain at Home.
If you are currently experiencing pain in your jaw joint, here are some quick tips for treating it:
- 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
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What is a TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull and you have one on both sides of your face. This joint allows you to open your mouth to talk and eat. You may not always think about your jaw joint, but when things inside the joint go wrong it can cause a lot of pain.
When the TMJ is misaligned or damaged in any way it is known as a TMJ disorder. TMJ disorders can cause pain in the joint as well as other symptoms, including:
- Clicking and popping in the jaw joint
- Ear pain
Treating 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. Treating TMJ pain early can reduce and even prevent more damage from occuring.
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 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.
Mouth Guards 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 mouth guard 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” mouth guards aren’t very effective for treating TMJ pain because they aren’t designed to fit with your unique mouth shape. And if a mouth guard doesn’t fit properly, it won’t do much good.
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.