Relief For Facial Pain
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinged joint that connects the lower jaw to the upper jaw bone.
Movement of the TMJ is made possible by five pairs of muscles that are attached to the facial bones. These muscle pairs must work together so that stresses on both sides of the jaw are balanced.
If your muscles, bite and jaw do not perform together, it will lead to a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) with resulting symptoms in the head and neck.
Common symptoms of TMD include difficulty in opening the mouth or chewing, clicking or popping sounds around the jaw, jaw muscle tenderness, pain on the side of the face that may spread to the shoulder and back of the head, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, "plugged ear" feeling and headaches that can mimic migraines.
Recently the "Journal of the American Dental Association" reviewed some basic techniques to help TMD sufferers help ease their pain.
- Some people find relief with moist heat. Others find cold packs more effective. Experiment to see which is best for your pain.
- Do not chew gum. Chewing gum aggravates the joint by applying continuous pressure to it.
- Rest your jaw muscles whenever possible. Avoid cradling the phone between your shoulder and ear or resting your jaw on your hand as this tenses the muscles. Try to keep your teeth apart to keep the muscles relaxed. Do not purse your lips. Try to avoid nervous habits like pushing the tongue against the teeth.
- Avoid hard foods such as raw carrots or chewy foods such as bagels or caramels. Take small bites of food to ovoid over-stretching or over-stressing muscles.
- Do not clench or grind your teeth. Consult your dentist if this is habitual.
- Avoid caffeine as this stimulates muscle contractions.
- Do not "open wide". Avoid strenuous yawning, yelling or anything that causes you to open your mouth wider than usual.
- Sleep on your back. When you sleep on your stomach your head is turned at an angle which causes muscles to strain. In addition the joint is resting on a pillow or mattress which contributes to further strain. If you sleep on your side, keep your neck and jaw aligned to avoid the extra strain.
It takes time and patience to treat a long-term condition such as TMD. The most important aspect of treatment is proper diagnosis of it's causes.
If you have any concerns please consult your dentist.
Dr. Stephen Petras