Jaw pain can range from a minor nuisance to a disabling discomfort. It can interfere with daily activities from chewing to talking to breathing. TMJ jaw pain can have several causes, but in many cases TMJ treatment resolves them all.
Home Treatment for Jaw Pain
Not all types of jaw pain require professional care, and even simple TMJ can benefit from home care without ever needing care from a doctor. When you develop jaw pain, it’s a good idea to start by trying to treat it at home.
First, stop engaging in activities that lead to jaw pain. If, for example, you’re a gum chewer, stop chewing gum to allow your jaw to rest. Talk less. Eat soft food, but make sure you’re eating nutritious, flavorful foods. There are many good soft food recipes that can help you keep enjoying eating and getting the nutrition you need while you’re resting your jaw.
If stress-related jaw clenching contributes to jaw pain, practicing relaxation techniques can make a big difference. Try some on your own or work with a yogi or other mindfulness practitioner to get more relaxed.
Apply heat to your jaw muscles. This has been shown to significantly reduce jaw pain, especially pain related to muscle soreness. If you have swelling at the jaw joint, applying ice to the jaw joint might help.
If you take pain medications, you can take some according to the instructions on the label. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen might help more because they combat swelling, but they can also interfere with bone healing.
When You Need Professional Care
But it’s important to be watchful of your jaw health to get professional care when it’s necessary. Here’s when to stop home care and get professional help for your jaw pain:
- Pain gets worse under home care
- Pain is so intense that you can’t sleep
- Pain doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications
- Pain recurs several times
- Pain lasts seven days or more
- Your jaw locks or has limited movement
- You have a grinding noise in the joint
If you experience any of these, please contact a TMJ dentist for help.
Types of TMJ Jaw Pain
TMJ is a complicated condition, and many of the symptoms related to it are just as complicated. This includes jaw pain. There are many potential reasons why your TMJ might be causing you jaw pain.
Most common is muscular jaw pain. Tense or overworked jaw muscles can grow sore. Relaxing them will usually resolve this pain.
You might experience jaw pain in the bone from the pressure caused by overworking muscles. Clenched jaws will push the teeth down into the bone, which can trigger pain in the bone. Or it may result in tooth pain. Either of these pains may sometimes be felt as a headache, and are often confused with sinus headaches.
You might have pain directly in the jaw joint itself. This may be related to the movement of the joint, or it might be a more constant pain. Swelling and inflammation may cause this type of pain to worsen. This type of pain may also be related to the presence of bone shards or spurs caused by grating bone in the joint.
Finally, pinched nerves may cause sudden, electric pains in your jaw. Or it may cause tingling and numbness related to more minor pressure on the nerves.