If you are one of the estimated 10 million Americans suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as TMJ, you have probably had enough of the sore jaw muscles, sore neck, aching back, and frequent headaches. TMJ pain can make everyday activities like chewing, speaking, and even smiling uncomfortable. Although there’s no cure for TMJ disorder, you have a wide range of options for managing TMJ symptoms and pain.
1. Get a Professional Opinion
Your first step in addressing TMJ pain is to talk to your dentist. General dentists are highly qualified to diagnose and treat TMJ disorder and many dentists actually have extensive training in this area. Dentist-prescribed TMJ treatment usually includes the use of an oral splint, a special type of mouthguard that corrects the position of the jaw to minimize muscle strain.
2. Pain Management at Home
Techniques borrowed from sports medicine can help you deal with TMJ soreness at home. Follow this basic plan to alleviate pain or soreness in the TMJs:
- Take a dose of an anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen) immediately.
- Apply a cold compress to both sides of your face for at least five minutes. The cold will help to reduce pain and swelling.
- Apply a warm compress to the sides of your face for at least another 5 minutes. Heat lets the joints relax and become more flexible.
3. Consider Dietary Changes
The foods you eat and beverages you drink can have a serious impact on the severity of your TMJ pain. A few dietary changes can significantly improve the function of your TMJs. A few guidelines include eating softer foods instead of harder, crunchier, or chewier ones or swapping out hard-to-chew foods with easier to chew alternatives in your favorite recipes. For example:
- For breakfast, consider hot cereals, scrambled eggs, or smoothies rather than crunchy cold cereal or chewy bagels.
- For lunches and dinners, your options include pasta with any number of delicious sauces, fresh fish, soups, and ground meat dishes.