We are open! Schedule your appointment today by calling (786) 776-2753 or book online.

Have you ever woken up in the morning with a headache and pain in your jaw? Or noticed your jaw is sore after snacking on carrots or other crunchy foods? If so, you might have TMJ disorder.

What is TMJ disorder, and how can you treat it? That’s what you’ll find out in today’s blog post. Read on to learn common symptoms and causes of TMJ disorder, at-home exercises you can try, and professional treatment options at Sedation Dentistry of Sunny Isles.

What is TMJ disorder?

Temporomandibular disorder, often called TMJ disorder or TMD, causes pain or tightness in the jaw.

The temporomandibular joint acts as a connecting muscle between your jawbone and your skull, behaving like a sliding hinge to open and close your mouth and move it from side to side. Let’s do an exercise: place your fingers lightly in front of your ear. Then, open your mouth. The joint you feel moving there is your temporomandibular joint.

The temporomandibular joint is extremely complex thanks to its hinge-like functionality — but unfortunately, it can also be quite temperamental. TMJ disorder occurs when the TMJ joint becomes improperly positioned and/or inflamed.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ

Now that we know a little bit more about TMJ disorder, let’s take a look into some of the common symptoms and risk factors for developing it. 

Common TMJ symptoms

  • Pain, tenderness, or tightness in or around the jaw and temporomandibular joint(s) 
  • A clicking sound when you open or close your jaw
  • Difficulty eating or chewing 
  • Aching pain in the face, especially around the ear
  • Swelling on the side of your face 
  • Your jaw “locks”, or gets stuck open, when you open your mouth wide
  • Limited range of motion in your jaw
  • Headaches

Causes and risk factors of TMJ

Due to its finicky nature, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of TMJ disorder. Basically, anything that might inflame the TMJ, or cause the cartilage or bones around the joint to wear can lead to TMJ disorder. However, some of the other common causes include: 

  • Teeth grinding (also known as bruxism), or teeth clenching 
  • Arthritis 
  • Stress and anxiety 
  • Poor posture 
  • Sleep apnea
  • Misalignment of the jaw or teeth 
  • Injury or trauma to the jaw or mouth 

Will TMJ go away on its own?

The answer to this one is: it depends. Sometimes, it’s possible for the pain from TMJ disorder to subside or clear up on its own — usually with a dedicated at-home treatment practice that focuses on reducing stress and strengthening the jaw muscles. 

However, in most cases, TMD doesn’t clear up on its own and requires professional treatment to ease pain and help correct certain damaging behaviors to the TMJ. 

Are you looking for relief from TMD pain? Don’t wait to see if it clears up on its own! Contact us today to set up a consultation with our skilled TMJ disorder dentists, Dr. Frank or Dr. Diane. They’ll be happy to examine your jaw and recommend a customized treatment plan just for you.

At-home treatment for TMJ

Dealing with the symptoms of TMJ disorder can be a pain. Thankfully, there are easy things you can do at home to help decrease TMJ pain, and even minimize it over time. 

Exercises to strengthen the nearby muscles 

There are easy at-home exercises you can implement into your daily routine that will help stretch, strengthen, and relax the jaw. Let’s take a look at a few fast and easy exercises. 

Exercise 1 – Relaxed jaw 

  1. Hold your tongue lightly to the roof of your mouth, near the back of your front teeth 
  2. Slowly open and close your mouth 
  3. Repeat 5-6 times daily 

Exercise 2 – Resisted opening and closing 

  1. Place your thumb lightly under your chin
  2. Slowly open your mouth, leaving your thumb under your chin to apply a gentle pressure 
  3. Hold your mouth open for 5-6 seconds
  4. Gently grab your chin with both of your index fingers and your thumbs under your jaw
  5. Slowly close your mouth, leaving a gentle pressure on your chin as you try to close it 
  6. Repeat 5-6 times daily 

Exercise 3 – Side to side stretch 

  1. Place a tongue depressor or a clean pen cap between your front teeth
  2. Move your jaw slowly from side to side 
  3. Repeat 5-6 times daily
  4. As your jaw gets progressively stronger, increase the height of the item in your mouth

Exercise 4 – Chin tucks  

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders pulled back and your chest pushed out
  2. Pull your chin backward, creating a “double chin”
  3. Hold this position for 3 seconds, then return to starting position 
  4. Repeat 10 times daily 

Managing stress and anxiety 

When we are feeling stressed or anxious, our muscles tend to tense, and we may clench them without even realizing it. This is often the case when it comes to our teeth and jaw. 

And since teeth grinding and clenching are commonly connected to TMJ disorder, it’s a good idea to consider practicing relaxation techniques to help ease pain and discomfort in the jaw. One easy breathing exercise we like to recommend is called box breathing. 

To practice box breathing:

  1. Inhale slowly through your nose while counting slowly to four
  2. Hold your breath for the count of four 
  3. Exhale slowly out your mouth while slowly counting to four 
  4. Hold your breath to the count of four 
  5. Repeat 

Other options

Because TMJ disorder often leads to inflammation, a few other options for at-home treatment include: 

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen
  • Alternating between placing heat and a cold pack on the temporomandibular joint for 10 minutes at a time
  • Focusing on eating soft foods that won’t irritate your jaw, like soups, mashed potatoes, fish, eggs, etc. 
  • Avoiding meals that make you open your mouth wide or chew excessively, like apples, raw carrots, large sandwiches, caramels, etc.

TMJ treatment at Sedation Dentistry of Sunny Isles

At-home exercises can help strengthen and relax the jaw, or keep it from becoming inflamed or irritated as often. However, if you think you have TMJ disorder, it’s important to talk with your dentist about it to ensure you know your treatment options and get the help you need. 

Here are some TMJ treatment options available to you at our Sunny Isles office: 

  • Custom night guard – Also known as mouthguards, these are custom-made to fit over the top or bottom of your teeth. They are worn when you sleep, and help treat bruxism by creating a barrier between the top and bottom teeth. This helps protect your teeth and keep your jaw muscles relaxed at night.  
  • Laser biostimulation – Often referred to as Low-level laser therapy (LLLT), this treatment helps reduce inflammation in the jaw.
  • Occlusal treatment – Treatment for an uneven bite.

Experiencing TMJ symptoms? Contact us today

If you’re experiencing jaw pain, tightness, and other TMJ disorder symptoms, contact us today — our qualified, professional team wants to help you get the care and relief you need! 

Call us at (786) 629-1503 or book your appointment online today.