For jaw pain, you might be tempted to rush out to the dentist or doctor right away for care, but the best place to start is treating it at home. TMJ is very common, but in many cases it will resolve on its own with a little bit of treatment at home.
It’s also important to know when it’s time to acknowledge you have a serious problem and need to see a neuromuscular dentist for treatment.
Home Care for TMJ
TMJ can be caused or worsened by many common (albeit bad) habits, such as chewing fingernails, crunching ice, cracking nuts, or using your teeth to open bottles, tear open packages, and other non-food tasks. If you’re guilty of this, it’s time to stop, or else you may make your jaw pain worse.
Changing your diet for a little bit to emphasize soft foods can also help. Avoid chewing gum and cut foods into smaller pieces so you don’t have to open wide to bite them off and don’t have to chew as much to eat them.
Over-the-counter medications can help a lot, too. Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve) to reduce pain and control swelling.
If you have sore muscles, you can use heat to reduce the pain, control spasming, and increase comfort. If you have swollen or fluid-filled areas, apply ice to help reduce swelling.
When to See a Professional
Home care is good for many cases of TMJ, but not all, and you have to acknowledge when it’s time to seek professional care for your jaw pain.
You Experienced Trauma or an Accident That May Have Caused Serious Injury. A blow to the jaw, serious fall, or car accident can all cause serious injury to your jaw that needs professional attention. It may not be an emergency, but you should schedule an appointment soon to address jaw pain after this type of incident.
Recommended Medication Doses Don’t Give Relief. When you take the recommended dose of over-the-counter medication and your pain still persists, it’s time to seek care for your jaw pain. This includes pain that persists beyond the length of time you are supposed to take these medications (usually a week).
You Have Symptoms beyond the Jaw. If your jaw pain is accompanied by headaches, ringing in the ears, neck pain, or other symptoms that involve more than your jaw, it’s likely you need professional care to resolve your condition.
Pain Interferes with Daily Activities. If your pain is so severe that you can’t talk, work, or enjoy leisure activities, you should seek professional care.
Symptoms Last More Than a Week. If you are trying home remedies, but your pain persists for a week or more, you need professional care.
Symptoms Go Away but Recur. Home care may temporarily resolve symptoms of serious TMJ, but if your symptoms keep coming back, it’s likely you need professional care to permanently address the causes of your jaw pain.
If you are suffering from jaw pain and need professional care, please call 303-691-0267 today for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.