Diagnosing and treating temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) disorder, sometimes called TMJ, can be difficult because there is no one cause of the disorder. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent TMD or reduce symptoms. Here, the TMJ Center of New Jersey shares these tips to help improve symptoms or prevent a TMD flare-up.
Change Your Eating Habits
If you experience jaw pain when eating foods that are hard to chew or swallow, it’s time to rethink your eating habits. Try eating soft foods that are high in flavonoids (plant antioxidants), which can help decrease joint pain. Cooked fruits and vegetables are great sources of flavonoids. Avoid consuming saturated fats, fried foods and caffeine, as these may increase inflammation. Cut your food in small pieces that are easier to chew. Chewing gum can also cause jaw pain. If this sounds familiar, try rinsing with mouthwash instead to freshen your breath.
Maintain Good Posture
Poor posture can put a strain on your neck, back, and even your facial muscles. For example, holding your head forward while looking at a computer all day strains the neck and facial muscles. Be mindful of sitting and standing up straight. If you sit for long periods of time, remember to take frequent breaks by standing and stretching to relieve muscle soreness.
Adjust Your Sleeping Habits
TMJ disorder symptoms can either worsen or improve while you are sleeping. For example, by sleeping on your stomach, you may be putting extra pressure on your jaw with your pillow. Try sleeping on your back or side, or change your position throughout the night. If you grind or clench your teeth, consider wearing a mouth guard at night to protect your teeth while you sleep.
Exercise Your Mouth and Jaw
Try practicing mouth and jaw exercises to alleviate any TMJ disorder symptoms. Press your tongue on the roof of your mouth and then open your mouth wide as if you were yawning. Repeat this exercise until you start to feel less pressure throughout your jaw area. To strengthen your jaw muscles, try placing your thumb or two fingers under your chin and opening your mouth slowly while pushing up gently on your chin with your fingers. Hold this for three to six seconds and then close your mouth slowly.
Headaches and teeth grinding are often caused by stress. Prevent or reduce TMJ disorder symptoms by staying as calm as possible and relieving any stress you may feel. Meditation, exercise, massages or even partaking in your favorite calming activity can keep your stress low. Avoid situations that cause you to stress out right before going to sleep at night, such as arguments or worrying about the next day.
If your TMJ disorder symptoms seem to be worsening, the TMJ Center of New Jersey can help. TMJ specialist and dentist Dr. Ivan Stein can evaluate the cause of your symptoms and offer the best treatment options for you. Schedule a complimentary consultation by calling (855) TMJ-DOCS or (855) 865-3627.