How to Manage TMD Symptoms at Home

If you have a temporomandibular disorder (TMD), you know you have to be able to manage the symptoms at home. After all, you can’t go to the doctor or emergency department every time you have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) symptoms. Fortunately, our TMJ specialist at Aesthetic Dentistry of Stuart can suggest several ways to manage your TMD/TMJ symptoms at home.

Your temporomandibular joints are where your jaw connects to your skull, just in front of your ears. Muscles and ligaments that attach your jaw to your skull help you move your jaw up and down, and side to side. Cartilage covers the parts of the bones that interact with the joint; a small, shock-absorbing disk separates the bones of the joint to help your jaw move smoothly. Arthritis, a dislocated jaw, injury, infection, and other conditions can erode the disk or move it out of its proper alignment to cause TMD and its symptoms. 

Smiling, laughing, talking and chewing are simple movements that you do dozens of times every day, and you probably don’t give it a thought – that is, until one of those simple movements triggers serious pain or stiffness in your jaw, face, neck, or shoulder. TMD can also make it hard to open or close your mouth, cause clicking or popping in your jaw, ringing in your ears, headaches, and migraines that can last several hours or even a few days. These symptoms can have a significant effect on the quality of your life.

Clearly, it is critical that you can manage TMD/TMJ symptoms whenever they appear.

TMJ Treatment at Home

Rest your jaw

Avoid making wide jaw movements, such as yawning, chewing, yelling, or singing. While it is hard to avoid yawning and other jaw movements, just do your best to keep your jaw muscles relaxed.

Correct your posture

Believe it or not, poor posture can make the pain in your jaw even worse. Look for ways to improve your posture throughout your daily activities, such as:

  • At work – choose a chair that supports your back, and take frequent breaks from sitting
  • In your car – set the seat to the most upright position possible
  • Watching TV or reading – choose a chair, couch or bed that allows you to sit upright; place a pillow behind your back for support

You can also perform a simple exercise to straighten your back muscles and alleviate pain in your TMJ. To do this exercise, raise your chest bone, pull your shoulders back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Sleep well

A good night’s sleep can make all the difference in your TMD pain levels. Sleep is also essential for wellness and healing, but the pain of TMD can interrupt your sleep. Minimize the pain of TMD by sleeping on your back and supporting your neck with pillows. Avoid sleeping on your stomach. If you sleep on your side, do not put your hand on your jaw, as this may cause painful misalignment of your jaw. 

Apply a hot or cold compress

Cold reduces inflammation and pain, while heat relaxes your jaw and stimulates the flow of blood to the affected region. Apply a hot or cold compress to your TMJ for 15 to 20 minutes at a time; always put a thin towel or other layer of material between the compress and your skin. Give your skin a 15- to 20-minute break between applications. 

Melt that stress away

Stress can cause you to grind your teeth, which can trigger TMD pain. Meditation, exercise, yoga, gardening, eating right, getting enough sleep, and cutting back on alcohol can help reduce stress.  

Gentle jaw exercises

You can do jaw exercises to strengthen and relax the muscles serving your TMJ. These exercises include:

  • Relaxed jaw exercise – rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth; relax your jaw to allow your upper and lower jaw to come apart
  • Goldfish exercise – place one index finger on your TMJ and the other on your chin; while applying light pressure with each index finger and holding your tongue to the roof of your mouth, open your mouth
  • Chin tucks – sit or stand straight; pull your chin straight back and down towards your chest to create a “double chin” and hold for 3 seconds; repeat

Visit your dentist in Stuart FL

Your Stuart dentist can provide more helpful tips for managing your temporomandibular disorder, along with suggestions on reducing TMJ headache and other symptoms of TMD. We can also provide you with safe, effective TMJ treatment that may include stabilizing your jaw with orthotics along with adjunctive therapies, such as TENS and the MLS laser. A TENS unit uses gentle electrical stimulation to relax muscles, while MSL laser treatments use the power of light to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.

Take control of your TMD by contacting Aesthetic Dentistry of Stuart today.

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