Most people with TMJ don’t need professional care, especially if their symptoms are transitory. Careful home management of your symptoms can not only increase your comfort, it can prevent TMJ from becoming more serious. Of course, it’s just as important to know when to seek professional help for your TMJ.
Rest Your Jaw Joint
For many minor and reversible cases of TMJ, the problem is simply muscle or joint fatigue, so it’s time to give your jaw a rest. Try to reduce the amount of talking that you do, and when you do talk, use smaller jaw motions if possible.
Chewing can be a major stress on your jaw. Try moving to a soft diet for the short term. Make sure you’re still getting a good balance of nutrition, though. Don’t just eat cake and ice cream! Avoid hard-to-chew snacks like popcorn, beef jerky, and chewing gum.
Also consider activities that cause you to set your jaw, such as lifting heavy weights, and take it easy for a while.
Many people clench their jaws in response to stressful situations. If you find yourself doing this, try to find ways to relax. Institute relaxation rituals into your day. Make time for things you enjoy. Cut down on caffeine and other stimulants, as these can lead to stress.
Many people get good results with simple meditation or with mindfulness techniques. There are many ways to go about this, and if you are interested, there are classes available that can help you relax.
Massage can also help relieve muscle tension. There are many self-massage techniques that can be used to potentially release tension in your jaw muscles.
You can help relieve pain from sore muscles by applying heat. A heating pad, hot water bottle, or rice sock are all good ways to do this. If you suspect inflammation of the jaw joint, apply cold instead of heat to help control inflammation.
You can take over-the-counter (OTC) medications for relief of your jaw pain, headaches, and other discomfort. Also, taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen can help if swelling is contributing to your jaw problems.
Follow the instructions on the label or instructions from your doctor. Remember that OTC medications aren’t harmless, and be aware of any potential interactions with your prescription medications or health conditions.
When to Seek Professional Care
- Pain doesn’t respond to medications or other techniques
- Pain or other symptoms worsen during home care
- You experience serious symptoms like a locking jaw or grinding sound in the joint
- Your pain or other symptoms interfere with your daily life
- Your symptoms last despite a week of home care
- Your symptoms go away, but then return
All of the above are signs that you are among the TMJ sufferers who need professional care for your TMJ.