6 ways you can prevent and treat TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a pain in your jaw muscles that can lead to headaches and more. Prevent it with these suggestions.

6 ways you can prevent and treat TMJ

1. Rest your jaw

  • Chill out on the chewing and halve the size of your sandwiches so you don't have to open your mouth as wide.
  • If you open your mouth wider than the width of three fingers, that's too wide.
  • It also helps to avoid chewing gum, chewy foods like taffy and crunching up ice.

2. See the dentist

  • If you grind your teeth, or your bed partner says you do, get to your dentist. Teeth grinding is a major cause of TMJ.
  • A dentist can fit you with a mouth guard or splint to wear at night to prevent teeth grinding.
  • You're also more likely to develop TMJ if your teeth don't come together neatly.
  • If you have this problem, talk to an orthodontist about braces to realign your teeth, improve your bite and reduce your risk of TMJ.

3. Stop clenching

  • Some people hold tension in their jaws without realizing it, especially when they're under stress.
  • That tension can contribute to or even cause TMJ so that it becomes painful even to eat.

4. Try biofeedback

  • Electromyogram (EMG) biofeedback teaches you to relax your jaw and facial muscles.
  • You start out with sensors attached to your forehead, jaw muscles and shoulder muscles that signal you when they sense muscle tension.
  • Then you're taught techniques to relax and reduce the tension.
  • After practicing for a few weeks, you're able to reduce the tension without the sensors.
  • Ask your doctor or dentist for a referral.

5. See a cognitive behavioural therapist

  • This type of therapy can help you realize and change factors, such as your response to stress and anxiety, that contribute to your TMJ.
  • It provides you with skills to reduce your response to pain and works well for preventing the pain of TMJ.
  • You don't need many sessions. One study found that pain improved by 50 percent in people who had just four sessions.
  • Your doctor or health insurance company can help you find a specialist.
  • Combining this type of therapy with biofeedback and a mouth splint works better than any of the three treatments alone.

6. Exercise your jaw

Isometric jaw exercises can strengthen and stretch the muscles around the joints. Practice the exercises below several times a day. Hold each position for five seconds and repeat five times.

  • Opening. Hold the back of your hand underneath your jaw to create resistance. Open your mouth about an inch, pushing against your hand.
  • Forward thrust. Hold the back of your hand against the bottom of your jaw to create resistance. Push your jaw forward against your hand.
  • Sideways thrust. Hold the palm of your hand against the side of your jaw that hurts. Push your jaw to that side.

The temporomandibular joints are among the most complicated and commonly used joints in the body. That means they're more prone to problems. But with the right practices, you can keep them in top working order and help prevent TMJ.

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