Not one of those issues you hear about often when it comes to joint pain, temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is the result of an injury your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Somewhat of a ‘hinge’ that connects your jawbone to your skull, this joint lets you move your jaw for talking, chewing, yawning and much more. Pain and discomfort comes along when this joint is injured however, in most cases this is temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care and jaw exercises. 

Risk Factors for TMJ 

Although the cause of TMJ is uncertain, there does seem to be several risk factors that can make you more likely to experience this jaw pain. These include: 

  • Poor posture in the neck and upper back that lead to neck strain
  • Clenching your jaw and increasing muscle tension around your jaw
  • Chronic inflammatory arthritis
  • Misaligned teeth and tissue diseases
  • Women aged 18-44

Signs & Symptoms of TMJ 

When you start feeling pain in your jaw joint, located just in front of your ear, it is likely that you could be experiencing TMJ issues. Pain from this jaw may also spread to the face, eye, forehead, ear and neck. These signs and symptoms may be temporary, yet they may also last several years. As each person presents differently with TMJ issues, it is important to visit your local dentist at Tooth Crusader for confirmation of your diagnosis. If you feel any of the below signs and symptoms, call us today on (02) 8097 1838.

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw, particularly around the joint area in front of your ear
  • Popping or clicking of your jaw
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw
  • Swelling on the side of your face 
  • Jaw that gets ‘stuck’ or ‘locked’
  • Trouble chewing

Other symptoms can include toothaches, headaches (including migraines), dizziness, blurred vision, earaches and ringing in the ears (tinnitus), upper shoulder pain and pain at the base of the tongue. 

Exercises for TMJ Pain Relief

Jaw exercises may help to relieve pain, relax the jaw, increase mobility and strengthen jaw muscles. Such jaw exercises include:

  1. Relaxed jaw exercise: put your tongue to the top of your mouth behind your upper front teeth. Allowing your teeth to come apart, relaxing your jaw muscles so your mouth slowly opens. 
  2. Goldfish exercises: place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, your pointer finger on your chin, and another finger in front of your ear where your TMJ is. From here, you can do a ‘partial opening’ exercise where you drop your jaw so that your mouth is half-open. Alternatively, you do the complete open where you drop your lower jaw completely. You should feel some mild resistance, but no pain. This exercise should be done six times a set and six times a day. 
  3. Chin tucks: push your shoulders back and your chest up. Pull your chin straight back and down, toward your neck. This should create a ‘double chin’ effect. Hold this position for a few seconds and repeat 10 times.
  4. Resisted opening: place your thumb under your chin and slowly open your mouth while pushing gently against your chin for resistance. 
  5. Resisted closing: squeezing your chin with index fingers under your lip and thumbs under your chin, slowly try to close your mouth. 
  6. Tongue up: with your tongue on the roof of your mouth, repeatedly open and close your mouth.
  7. Side to side: put a thin object between your front teeth and slowly move your jaw from side to side. As the exercise gets easier, increase the thickness of the object. 
  8. Forward movement: with the same thin object between your teeth, move your bottom jaw forward so that your bottom teeth are in line with your top teeth. Again, increase the thickness of the object as the exercise gets easier. 

TMJ Treatment

In conjunction with the above exercises, other treatment methods for TMJ include taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen to relieve muscle pain and swelling. Other than that, a few additional treatments include: 

  • Apply an ice pack to the side of your face for 10 minutes, then try a few of the above TMJ exercises before holding a warm washcloth to the same side of your face for the 5 minutes. 
  • Eating soft foods can also help relieve pain though completely changing your diet to live of yoghurt, mashed potato and soups would drastically change your lifestyle and is often a last resort. 
  • Avoid excessive yawning and keep chewing gum to a minimum.
  • Don’t rest your chin in your hand and don’t hold your phone between your shoulder and your ear. Practice good posture
  • Keep your teeth slightly apart to avoid grinding and to relieve pressure on your jaw. Putting your tongue between your teeth can help to control clenching.
  • A splint or a mouth guard may be recommended by our dentist at Tooth Crusader to lessen the effects of clenching and grinding as well as to correct your teeth. 
  • Dental work may also be recommended. Having crowns, bridges or braces may balance the surfaces of your teeth which can correct any bite problems. 

If none of these relieves the pain and discomfort in your jaw, more drastic measures may be taken such as trigger point injections, low-level laser therapy, radio wave therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and potentially surgery.