Temporomandibular Joint Disorders is a rather scary sounding and barely pronounceable name, so it is no wonder that most dentists and their patients refer to the disorder as TMJ.
What Causes It?
There is no general consensus on what causes TMJ. The majority of dentists think it is related to problems with the muscles in your jaw or joints. Those problems can be caused by grinding or clenching your teeth, arthritis in a joint, or stress induced reaction in your facial and jaw muscles among other things.
The main indicator of TMJ is pain or tenderness in your face, around your jaw, or higher up, nearer to your ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide. It can even affect your neck and shoulders. If your jaws get locked in either an open or closed position, or if you hear popping or clicking sounds when you chew, the chances are you have TMJ. It can also be signaled by trouble chewing or even swelling on the side of your face.
Relieving the Pain
Before going for the hard medication, there are several ways to try to relieve the pain caused by TMJ. Regular over the counter anti-inflammatory medication can help with muscle pain and swelling. Applying an ice pack to the affected side of your face for 10 minutes could help with immediate relief.
After that do a few light jaw stretches if approved by your doctor, and then keep a warm cloth on your face for 5 minutes. Eating soft foods and avoiding extreme jaw movements or resting your chin on your hand will also help. Finally, try and keep your teeth lightly apart to help your jaw loosen and relax.
If those methods are not working for you, then you can ask your doctor about prescription medication for the pain and swelling as well as a night guard for your teeth to help lessen the effects of grinding or other involuntary jaw movements at night.