Temporomandibular joint disorder is a complex and painful condition that above all requires treatment by experienced medical professionals like TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Berry. But not all TMJ treatment takes place at the dentist’s office — some of it has to take place at home.

An effective TMJ self-management program isn’t meant to cure TMJ or function as treatment on its own. Instead, a good self-management program will allow for the healing that other treatments provide, and prevent further damage to the jaw and joints.

Woman having jaw pain

The Components of a Self-Management Program

Experts agree that there are six components of an effective TMJ self-management program: Education, exercise, self-massage, thermal therapy, nutrition, and identifying and avoiding behaviors that exacerbate pain. Each of these elements is important to discuss with your TMJ dentist and implement into your personal routines to ensure that the procedures and treatments you are receiving for your TMJ are doing the most good that they can.

The first component, education, is easy to achieve with the right dentist. An experienced TMJ dentist can provide you with the resources and information you need to fully understand your TMJ. What’s going on in your jaw shouldn’t be a mystery to you. With the right resources, you should be fully versed on what TMJ is, why you experience your symptoms, and how your treatments work. If you want to read up more on TMJ, our blog is full of information!

Exercise and self-massage go hand in hand. There are gentle stretches and movements you can perform to strengthen and relax the jaw muscles. Since much of the pain caused by TMJ is a result of muscle tension in the jaw, these light exercises and massages can help relieve pain at home. The Oxford University Hospital has an easy guide, but it’s a good idea to talk with your dentist about what exercises are best suited for you before you begin.

Speaking of pain relief, surveys have shown that the use of hot and cold packs to the jaw area have helped many TMJ sufferers alleviate symptoms. This is an easy way to reduce pain at home.

Your diet can also have an impact on your symptoms. Some foods are difficult to chew and can increase tension, soreness, or pain. Also, increasing the amount of naturally anti-inflammatory foods in your diet can help treat the inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. The TMJ Association has a handy nutrition guide that can help you make sure your diet is TMJ-friendly.

Finally, identifying and avoiding activities that trigger TMJ pain is key. That pain is an indicator of further damage being done to your fragile jaw joints, so any activity that causes jaw pain should be avoided. This might be eating certain foods, performing certain physical activities, or maybe particular sleeping habits.

Your dentist can help you put together an effective TMJ self-management program to practice at home. That way, the treatment your dentist is providing can do its work properly! Call (303) 691-0267 or contact us online today to make an appointment.