Home Care for TMJ Jaw Pain

One of the most important things to understand about TMJ is that most cases are transitory and don’t need professional care. You should start by treating your symptoms at home. Here are some types of home care to try for your TMJ:

  • Switch to a soft diet
  • Don’t chew gum or chew on nonfoods
  • Avoid excessive talking or loud talking
  • Try to avoid stress
  • Try to limit jaw opening to an easy, comfortable width
  • Perform self massage
  • Apply heat to sore muscles, cold to swollen joints
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication

The goal is to rest your jaw and encourage natural healing. Avoid anything that works you jaw, and that includes stress-related jaw clenching, if you can control it.

Heat can significantly soothe sore muscles, but it can increase inflammation. Avoid applying heat to swollen joints. Instead, apply cold.

Over-the-counter pain medications not only help with pain, but can help heal. Pain leads to stress and can stimulate muscle activity. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can reduce swelling and help your jaw heal. Always follow the recommended dosage on the label or your doctor’s instructions. Never exceed recommended dosages unless your doctor clears it.

man with tmj and jaw pain

When You Need Professional Care

It’s important to not try home care for too long. Postponing TMJ treatment when you have a serious disorder can make the disorder worse. Here are some signs that you need professional care:

  • Jaw pain does not resolve or appreciably weaken after seven days of home care
  • Pain gets worse
  • Pain spreads to new areas
  • Pain is too severe to respond to over-the-counter medication
  • You develop other symptoms, such as ear symptoms, or a headache
  • You have jaw popping or clicking
  • Your jaw motion is limited or your jaw locks
  • Pain resolves but then returns

If you experience any of the above, then it’s time to seek care. Remember, never exceed dosage recommendations on the label for over-the-counter medications unless your doctor instructs you otherwise.

Types of Jaw Pain in TMJ

TMJ is a complex disorder, and it can affect your jaw in many ways. There are several common ways that TMJ can trigger jaw pain, including:

  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Joint pain
  • Nerve pain

Muscle pain is the most common type of jaw pain. It’s caused by sore, overworked muscles. When your jaw is out of balance, your muscles won’t be able to find a comfortable resting position so they get overworked and tired. This is a dull, throbbing ache that affects your jaw muscles.

Overworked muscles can put stress on your bones, making them ache, too. The bone pain may be felt around the roots of your teeth, where your muscles connect, and other places stressed by muscle activity.

Joint pain is localized at the temporomandibular joints, on either side of the head, just in front of and below the ear. Joint pain may correlate with jaw noises or restricted motion, but not necessarily.

Nerve pain occurs when the jaw joint or jaw muscles are putting pressure on nerves. You may experience a sharp, zinging pain that comes and goes. Sometimes the pain may take weird shapes, like an isolated circle of pain.  You may also experience numbness or tingling rather than pain.

But no matter the type of jaw pain you experience, TMJ treatment can usually help. If you would like to learn more about jaw pain treatment in Anchorage, please call (907) 349-0022 or contact us today for an appointment at Excellence in Dentistry.