Jaw Pain or TMD
Problems in the joints and muscles of the jaw can cause jaw pain, clicking, crunching, locking, popping, earaches, headaches and different types of facial pain. These are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
TMD is not just one disorder, but a group of conditions, often painful, that affect the jaw joint and the muscles that control chewing. TMD disorders fall into 3 main categories:
- Myofascial Pain (most common form)
- Internal Derangement of the Joint
- Degenerative Joint Disease
20 Guidelines for Self Care Management of Jaw Pain
- Avoid hard food. Apply a soft food diet. This is to relieve the load on the joint and to cause less muscle activity. Severe cases may need a liquid food diet.
- Chew with your back teeth rather than biting with your front teeth.
- Chew on both sides. If you chew on one side, you concentrate the pressure on one side rather than equally on both sides.
- Avoid prolonged chewing.
- Avoid extreme jaw movements. Don't take big bites and open your mouth wider than 2-3 cm.
- Do not chew gum. Chewing gum much of the day increases the wear and tear on the joint giving little opportunity for your jaw to recover between meals.
- Avoid habits that put strain on the jaw muscles and joints. These include clenching, grinding, biting cheeks, jaw tensing, biting objects, popping your jaw joint, leaning on the palm of your hands while reading or watching TV or other habits. Also avoid stomach sleeping since this puts adverse forces on the jaw and neck muscles.
- Avoid activities that involve prolonged opening of jaw, such as long dental treatment until the pain has been reduced.
- Do not thrust your lower jaw forward, such as biting off a piece of thread, smoking or applying lipstick while in pain.
- Have an appropriate posture. Since posture muscles and jaw muscles are inter-related.
- Throughout the day, remind yourself to unclench or to discontinue grinding your teeth.
- Monitor your jaw position during the day in order to maintain a relaxed and comfortable position. Lips together teeth apart is a technique to keep the jaw in neutral relaxed position.
- Massage to reduce pain and heal sore muscles. Use your fingers to massage in a circular motion, the tender muscles, usually the masseter or temporalis for 5-10 seconds.
- Stretch the mouth open to the point where it is comfortable and not painful and it is held stretched open for 5-10 seconds. Do not massage while stretching. A commonly used exercise is N-stretching (placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth and stretching the jaw). This helps to stretch the masticatory muscles to their full length. Repeat this regimen frequently throughout the day.
- Reduce stress. Advanced cases may need to be referred to a psychologist for stress reduction skills.
- Physical therapy. When muscle pain is widespread down to through the shoulders, physical therapy or massage are very helpful.
- Wear your mouthguard as advised
- Take your medication of muscle-relaxing and anti-inflammatory drugs as prescribed.
- Repair teeth that have been damaged from grinding.
- Replace lost teeth, since they favor malocclusion.
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