Does your jaw pop or hurt when you open your mouth too wide? Does your jaw ever feel stiff or achy? Do you have frequent headaches or earaches? All of these are common signs of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, over 15 percent of adults in the United States are suffering from these same symptoms.

When does TMJ pain become a problem?

While TMJ disorder is common, many people don’t get any kind of treatment. For those who experience TMJ discomfort and pain infrequently, relief can often be found through self care and some times taking over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. But when does TMJ disorder become a severe enough problem to seek care from your dentist or doctor?

The answer depends on you. At the end of the day, you have to live with the pain and discomfort you are experiencing due to TMJ. There’s no reason to wait until your jaw pain becomes severe and your quality of life to be negatively affected in order to get treatment. Even if your pain is minor and infrequent, if it’s bothering you, you should talk with your dentist or doctor about it.

How is TMJ treated?

  • Medication – Dentists may suggest that patients take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the pain associated with TMJ. However, pain medication is not a long-term solution, and if you are experiencing TMJ pain frequently, or it’s its changing in severity, it might be best to look for a better alternative.
  • Resting your jaw – Minimizing the use of your jaw by limiting how much you speak and eating soft foods,  you can decrease the stress on it, which promotes healing.
  • Relaxation Techniques – Stress can play a big role in TMJ disorder, as it can lead to clenching the jaw and grinding the teeth, both of which can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw. Relaxation techniques that include slow, deep breathing and guided imagery can help to reduce stress, as well as the pain that it causes. Other stress-relieving activities, like doing yoga, meditating or getting a massage, may also help you find relief.
  • Hot and Cold Therapy – Holding a hot water bottle or a heat pack to the face can help to relieve pain and increase healing. Ice packs also promote healing, numb pain and decrease inflammation.
  • Surgery – In rare, severe cases of TMJ disorder, doctors sometimes suggest surgical intervention.  Consultation with specialists would be arranged to your treatment options.
  • Occlusal Splint – A well designed splint that closely monitored by your dentist can help to create balance between your teeth and jaw joints. This helps to relax the muscles in the head and the neck and can stabilize your jaw joints for the long-term.

When it comes to TMJ, you don’t have to wait until you experience a certain symptom or severity level before you get treatment. The fact of the matter is that, if you’re experiencing pain and you want to find a solution, you should seek treatment. Schedule your appointment with James Otten Dentistry online today.