If you’re suffering from TMD you will know the frustration and inconvenience caused from a sudden flare up of your symptoms. To manage the symptoms flare ups, we need to understand a few things.
What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
The Temporomandibular joint is the name of the joint connecting the jaw to the skull which allows you to chew, yawn, talk, and eat.
Temporomandibular joint disorder or dysfunction (TMD), is an umbrella term covering pain and dysfunction of the muscles of mastication (the muscles that move the jaw) and the Temporomandibular joints. It’s commonly referred to as TMJ. This is vernacular and is not correct as that is really just referring to the joint itself. TMD, TMJD, TMJ disorder and TMJ dysfunction are all interchangeably used by the public.
What are the Causes of TMD?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the only joint in your body designed to bring bone (your upper teeth) into direct contact with other bone tissue (your lower teeth). Your TMJ combines a hinge action with sliding motions.
The parts of the joint that interact are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which normally keeps the movement smooth. TMD symptoms can occur if
- The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
- The joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
This can happen due to:
- Misalignment (malocclusion) of or trauma to the teeth or jaw,
- Teeth grinding
- Poor posture
- Arthritis and other inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders.
- Bacterial or other infections
TMD Symptoms that are Common Among Sufferers:
(Click on any of the symptoms listed below for more information about the symptom and how a neuromuscular dentist can help relieve your pain.)
- Clicking Jaw Symptoms
- Facial Pain
- Headaches / Migraines
- Jaw Pain
- TMJ Lockjaw Symptoms
- Neck and Shoulder Pain
- Numbness or Tingling in the Fingers, Hands and Arms
- Tinnitus (Ringing In The Ears)
- Sensitive and Sore Teeth
- Sleep Apnea
What is a TMJ Disorder Flare Up?
TMD symptom flare ups refer to days or weeks of sudden increase in the intensity of a single or in some cases multiple symptoms listed above especially when resulting in facial pain, migraines and locking or limited movement of the jaw.
What Can Lead a Flare Up of TMD Symptoms?
It is necessary to identify the issues that can cause increases in pain for TMD patients to figure out how to prevent them in future:
- Misalignment of the teeth themselves. This is the primary reason that the supporting bones and muscles are forced to deal with the discomfort and you have symptoms. The job of the muscles is to bring the teeth tother so that they are in the best fit possible. If this is in a place that is comfortable for the muscles, they don’t hurt. If this happens to be in a place that is pathologic, they often hurt.
- Medicine– If you do not take your medication regularly, miss a dose, or are not taking it as prescribed, it may catch up with you. Take your medications the way your doctor prescribed them and ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are known relationships to joint disorders or TMD.
- High Impact Food- Difficult to chew foods require more work from your TMJ. Avoiding these foods will allow your jaw to rest and lessen the severity of the flare up.
- Weather – Some people feel that the weather makes their jaw hurt or makes it more stiff.
- Acidic Foods- Studies have shown that acidic foods may increase the chance of a painful flare up and also increase the severity. Consider a change to your diet if you eat a large amount of acidic foods.
- Caffeine- Caffeinated drinks act as stimulant and lead to more grinding
- Jaw Clenching at night- Jaw clenching, teeth grinding and the medical term for it, bruxism, may me a cause for your flare up. Ask your partner, a family member or seek a professional evaluation do help determine if this may be leading to your TMJ disorder flare up.
How to Handle Flare Ups?
Note: If the pain is acute or has persisted for more than 24 hours seek attention from a TMD dentist or neuromuscular dentist. You may search for one in your area here.
If the pain is not acute or you have already sought out medical help there are additional ways that you may be able to manage, although not identify or eliminate the cause of, a flare up:
You can try home remedies:
- Use both sides of the mouth at the same time or alternate sides.
- Chew with your back teeth rather than biting with your front teeth.
- Avoid activities that involve wide opening of the jaw, such as yawning
- Apply moist heat or cold (whichever feels better) on your cheek over the jaw area. Try a warm, damp towel or wrap ice in a thin face towel and apply for no more than five minutes at a time.
- Keep your tongue up in the roof of your mouth and your teeth apart. This helps keep your jaw muscles in a relaxed position.
- Over the counter pain medication may help when taken in accordance with manufacturers recommendations.
- Get good night’s sleep.
- Stay well hydrated
Improve your diet with a TMJ Diet or Soft Diet
- It is wise to steer clear of any foods that need a large amount of chewing
- Avoid saturated fats and fried foods, they tend to increase inflammation
- Try eating 4-5 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals
- Add foods that will reduce inflammation such HEALTHY OILS (olive oil, grape seed oil, or walnut oil), SOY PROTEINS (soybeans, tofu, and soy milk ), Blueberries and strawberries .
- Avoid foods that require opening the jaw wide to bite such as hamburgers, large sandwiches and apples.
- Keep well hydrated.
- Don’t forget to drink your orange juice, it is packed with Vitamin C and helps in repairing connective tissues as well as being a good anti-inflammatory.
Some preventive measures might help:
- Lighten the load on your jaw.
- Correct your posture as you stand, sit, and sleep
- Breathe and swallow properly,
- Soothe head and neck pain ,
- Reduce stress and exercise.
Remember that TMJ disorder flare ups are normally temporary, you WILL feel better. Until then it is best to know that there is help!
When and Why to consult a Neuromuscular Dentist for Treatment?
There are many treatment suggestions for TMD depending on your specific causes and symptoms. In the end the key will be to restore proper function to the jaw system which requires that you consult with a specialist, a TMJ disorder dentist. This is because it is imperative that the treating dentist has an appreciation of proper physiologic function of both hard and soft tissues e.g. jaw and muscles. TMD specialists are not certified by any governing organization so it is important for you to research where they have trained—after basic dental school. Only with post-graduate training does a dentist acquire the latest knowledge to treat TMD. Most dentists are in fact not qualified and do not have the latest training and correct equipment to diagnose or effectively treat the disorder.
The TMJ dentist and his team will help you learn more about TMD, how to manage the condition and how to reduce the effects on you and your life. Neuromuscular dentistry realigns the bite by measuring the jaw in its most relaxed position and then putting the jaw back into its natural position. In most cases this repositioning can be accomplished without traditional braces or surgery.
Click here for more information about how neuromuscular dentists treat TMJ jaw pain and a “bad bite”.
So if you are experiencing flare ups of ear, neck, face, jaw pain, migraines or a locking jaw due to possible TMD, take steps to resolve it and make an appointment with a qualified dentist to explore the best treatment options for you. By digging deeper to understand where your pain is coming from and applying appropriate treatment, you should be saying good-bye to painful TMD symptom flare ups in no time.