It’s estimated that more than 10 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. Since November is National TMJ Awareness Month, we’re taking a closer look at TMJ pain, remedies, and TMJ stretches. While your Bridgeport / Trumbull Line dentist is the best resource for how to alleviate TMJ pain or discomfort, there are steps you can take at home to reduce the soreness.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, located at the base of the skill that connects the upper jaw (maxilla) and the lower jaw (mandible). TMJ isn’t like most joints in the body. The mandible has a rounded protrusion the fits snuggly against an indention in the skull. An articular disc, or piece of cartilage, is nestled between the two bones. Ligaments hold these three pieces of the TMJ together. Those ligaments originate from different areas of the neck and head and support movement of the lower jaw.
Without this ball and socket joint, you wouldn’t be able to swallow, speak, or chew. The TMJ opens your mouth in two different ways. The first is similar to a door hinge, allowing you to open and close your mouth. A sliding motion, called translation, is the second movement made by the TMJ. This type of movement allows the lower jaw to shift back and forth or side to side. Translation is most beneficial for yawning, eating, and talking.
What Causes TMJ Pain?
The TMJ is like any other joint in your body. With overuse or a fracture, the joint will become sore and you may notice swelling. The TMJ doesn’t typically experience arthritis, so most pain in the joint is temporary. Speak with your Shelton dentist before attempting any TMJ home remedies, but heat and ice are often used to remedy swelling and soreness. The hot and cold compresses will treat the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint to slowly eliminate the pain.
When there are problems with your face or jaw muscles, your CT dentist may diagnose you with temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Only a professional dentist should diagnose a TMD condition or offer a pain treatment plan. Some TMD symptoms may be indicators of another oral issue. The most common TMD symptoms include:
- Facial swelling
- Tenderness in haw muscles
- Jaw that “locks” or settles out of place.
- Constant soreness in the ear, jaw, or face
- Migraine-like headaches, pressure behind the eyes, and earaches
- Popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth
TMJ pain can be caused by challenges other than TMD. Teeth grinding is one of the most common reasons for a sore joint. Stress at home or work can also cause irregular or aggressive jaw movement, attributing to discomfort in the TMJ. Routine visits to your CT dentist will reveal if teeth grinding, or another bad habit, is the cause of your joint soreness.
CT Dentist TMJ Treatment
When your CT dentist makes a TMJ diagnosis, they will explain there is no single cure for the condition. There are several ways to treat the pain, including over-the-counter medications and TMJ home remedies. No one treatment will work for all TMJ pain sufferers, but there are numerous treatment options to consider to find the one that works best for you.
- Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medicine, aspirin, or Tylenol
- Moist heat or ice pack
- Bite plate or splint
- Essential oils for TMJ
- TMJ stretches
- Jaw joint surgery
Some people find relief with OTC medications, but it’s important to not become reliant on those medicines. Moist heat or an ice pack can be pressed on the sore area to temporarily relieve swelling and pain.
If your CT dentist notices signs of teeth grinding, they may recommend a bite plate or splint to help reduce the harmful effects of grinding and clenching. The appliance is custom designed for your mouth only and is worn over the upper teeth to stop them from grinding against the lower teeth.
Essential Oils for Pain Relief
Some affected by TMJ explore the benefits of essential oils for TMJ pain. Before you begin any essential oil treatment, get the all-clear from your dentist. Next, compare essential oil brands. Not all essential oils are created equal, and for the best results, you need a product that is 100 percent oil. Products that are diluted with synthetic ingredients may cause a skin reaction.
A natural remedy for TMJ is peppermint essential oil. This oil is very potent, so it should be diluted with a pure carrier oil, like coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. Use one teaspoon of carrier oil for every one drop of peppermint oil. The peppermint works by relaxing the jaw and face muscles and easing the pain. Other pain-relieving essential oils include lavender and eucalyptus. Lavender helps relax muscles and is a great night-time treatment, as the lavender is a natural sleep aid. Eucalyptus is a good solution for sinus congestion and headache sufferers.
Ask your Shelton dentist if TMJ stretches may be beneficial for your situation. Only perform the stretches given to you by your dentist. There are different types of TMJ stretches – strengthening, relaxation, and stretching – and each needs to be performed at the appropriate time to be effective.
In a few cases, surgery to correct jaw imbalances may be necessary. This is typically a last resort treatment, so consult with your trusted CT dentist before considering the procedure.
CT Dentist For TMJ Pain
If TMJ pain is stopping you from enjoying basic functions, like chewing or sleeping, schedule an appointment with your Bridgeport / Trumbull Line dentist. The DeJesus Dental Group is experienced in diagnosing and treating TMJ issues. Preventative health is the best way to avoid TMJ disorder or pain. Visit your dentist at least twice a year for routine dental cleanings and exams to ensure a lifelong healthy smile.