We all take chewing, talking and yawning for granted until it causes us pain. Chronic pain when performing these motions is related to problems with the “tempomandibular joint.”
The tempomandibular joint joins the mandible with the temporal bone of the skull. The lower jaw, or “mandible” is the largest, as well as the toughest bone of the face, and supports the lower section of teeth. The tempomandibular joint, by joining the mandible to the skull, allows you to chew and talk. It is the only joint that moves on hard tissue. When the jaw is out of alignment, it is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as “TMJ”.
Pain in the Tempomandibular Joint
When your tempomandibular joint isn’t functioning properly, you may experience pain when talking or chewing, as well as headaches and “popping” sounds when you open your mouth wide. TMJ is a frustrating condition, and like all chronic pain conditions, causes patients emotional challenges as well.
TMJ is commonly caused due to:
- Grinding and/or clenching of teeth
- External trauma, such as a blow to the jaw
- Deficiency in magnesium and calcium
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Improper spinal alignment
Natural Relief Is Within Sight
If you suffer from TMJ, relief can be yours. Modern dental medicine offers many natural treatments to ease the painful symptoms associated with TMJ. There are several measures that patients can take themselves to treat TMJ non-invasively: jaw exercises, diet changes, and lifestyle changes.
Therapeutic Jaw Exercises
Exercise #1: Open mouth as wide as possible (without incurring pain) and with mouth open, slide jaw slowly to one side (hold for 10 seconds). Return jaw to center and repeat on the other side. Repeat the sequence about four times.
Exercise #2: Yawn wide once and then twice more (but only opening mouth halfway). Repeat this sequence two more times.
Exercise #3: With mouth wide open, move the tip of tongue to roof of your mouth, and move the tip of tongue back toward the tonsils. Hold this position for a few seconds. Then stick tongue out of the mouth and stretch it as far as possible. Hold this position for another few seconds. Repeat this sequence 6 to 12 times a day.
Adjusting the Diet
Dehydration can cause cramping, especially in the shoulders, neck, and jaw joint. Aim for about 100 ounces of water per day. It is strongly advised to drink 8 ounces every hour during the day, so that the intake is evenly distributed throughout the day.
Magnesium and calcium deficiency play a significant role in TMJ pain. Calcium makes bones strong, and magnesium is said to reduce tension in the muscles.
Recommended foods that are high in calcium and magnesium include (but are not limited to): avocados, nuts (almonds, cashews, and walnuts), spinach, oatmeal, pumpkin, cabbage, coconut, and bananas.
Changing Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
Smoking is aggravates pain associated with TMJ, providing yet another great reason to remove this habit from your life.
Chewing gum is not considered a healthy jaw habit and should be avoided, especially if you suffer from TMJ pain.
Seek the Advice of a Dental Professional
Speak to your dentist about investing in a cervical sleeping pillow, as it has shown positive results in helping alleviate neck and jaw pain.
To find out more about TMJ, and to discuss more permanent treatments, call Greenville Family Smiles today!