The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be a significant source of pain due to injury, arthritis, or unknown reasons. If you have TMJ disorder, several strategies can improve the pain, or in some cases, remedy the underlying problem.
1. Reduce Tension
Carrying tension in your jaw will exacerbate the disorder. Although it is impossible to simply stop being tense, there are ways to reduce tension when it occurs. Some people use the tips of their fingers to manually massage the area. This action can encourage the muscles surrounding the TMJ to relax. Other activities include performing simple exercises regularly that encourage your jaw to relax. Slowly opening and closing your mouth is one type of exercises that you should try.
You can also try placing a thin object between your top and bottom front teeth and moving your bottom jaw forward so that your top teeth are somewhat behind your bottom ones. As this exercise becomes more comfortable, you can try using your thumb as a spacer between your top and bottom teeth.
2. Talk With Your Dentist
Your dentist might have suggestions to minimize pain, such as the use of mouth guards or other oral appliances. Depending on the specific appliance your dentist recommends, it will either alleviate some of the pressure on the TMJ and/or help with the alignment of your jaw. Some oral appliances help keep the upper and lower jaw separated and are often worn throughout the day and night.
Although oral devices can be helpful for some people, they can make the problem worse for others. Sometimes oral devices can lead to more pain and increased tension of the muscles surrounding the TMJ. Appliances used to reposition the jaw are also an option, but this approach is not guaranteed to be effective.
3. Consider Medications
Medications to manage the pain associated with TMJ disorder can be helpful, but since the problem can be chronic, you should proceed with caution. Pain medications are an option to reduce chronic pain or especially bothersome episodes. Another option that might be helpful is the use of muscle relaxers to help alleviate tension in the muscles surrounding the TMJ.
Regardless of the medications used, these medications are likely to be less effective over time. It is important to try other options in conjunction with medications, such as corticosteroid injections. Injections of hyaluronic acid and botulism toxin have also been used in the management of TMJ disorder, and are worth considering.
There is no standard TMJ treatment that is guaranteed to alleviate or reduce this disorder. Trying different approaches will give you the best chance at finding a strategy that works for your situation.