Natural Approaches to Treating TMJ

TMJ SuffererWe 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. By joining the mandible to the skull, the tempomandibular joint allows you to properly 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 the following conditions:

  • Grinding and/or clenching of teeth
  • External trauma, such as a blow to the jaw
  • Stress
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Deficiency in magnesium and calcium
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Improper spinal alignment

Natural Relief Is Within Sight

If you suffer from TMJ and its uncomfortable symptoms, 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, including jaw exercises, diet changes, and lifestyle changes.

Therapeutic Jaw Exercises

The following therapeutic jaw exercises can be performed at your convenience to relieve the discomfort associated with TMJ disorder:

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.

Dietary Adjustments to Stay Healthy and Hydrated

Dehydration can cause cramping, especially in the shoulders, neck, and jaw joint. It is strongly advised to drink 8 ounces every hour during the day, so that the intake is evenly distributed throughout the day. A good goal is to aim for about 100 ounces of water per day. Nourishing, water-based foods, like lettuce, cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, and more, can also contribute to your overall hydration levels.

Magnesium and calcium deficiency play a significant role in TMJ pain. Calcium is proven to keep the bones strong, and magnesium is said to reduce tension in the muscles.

Wondering how to include more these healthy minerals in your diet? Recommended foods that are high in calcium and magnesium include (but are not limited to): avocados, nuts (including 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. Other common habits that can aggravate TMJ-related pain include:

  • Resting the jaw in your hand
  • Clenching the teeth
  • Grinding the teeth
  • Clenching the jaw muscles
  • Consuming foods that are very chewy, crunchy, or hard

Noticing and adjusting the small habits that contribute to TMJ pain can make all the difference! Take notice of the way your daily habits affect your jaw, and be sure to discuss them with your dentist.

Prioritize Quality Sleep

Sleep is an important part of total body health, including the management of TMJ. Both the quality of your sleep and the position you sleep in can help keep jaw pain at bay. Sleeping on your back and supporting your neck with pillows can help minimize TMJ symptoms.

Minimize Stress

Excess stress can contribute to unwanted tension in the jaw. Prioritizing relaxation and restorative practices like meditation, yoga, and time outdoors can promote healthy relaxation within jaw and face.

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 disorder, and to discuss more permanent treatment options, call Greenville Family Smiles today!

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