Although medical science cannot always prevent you from developing TMJ, we have some tips to help avoid this painful condition as much as possible.
TMJ, the common term for temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, is a painful — yet treatable — condition. If you suffer from TMJ, practicing these self-care strategies may help alleviate your symptoms and stop them from returning.
Take Care When Eating
Adjusting your diet may help prevent TMJ symptoms from manifesting.
Softer foods are easier on your jaw joint, so consider adding more soups, oatmeal, yogurt and other soft foods to your diet. Hard, crunchy foods, such as raw vegetables or nuts, and chewy foods such as gum or taffy, can irritate the joint and cause pain and swelling.
Crunchy foods are good for your teeth, but enjoy these foods in moderation, especially if you are prone to jaw problems.
You may be able to prevent or alleviate TMJ symptoms if you take smaller bites as well. Opening your mouth wide enough for a large bite can put extra stress on the jaw joint and sometimes even cause your jaw to lock.
If you have a habit of chewing your fingernails, crunching ice or biting pencils, break it. These activities can be hard on your facial muscles, teeth and jaw joint. The same goes for chewing gum.
Practice Good Posture and Orthopedic Habits
Poor posture, of all things, has been linked to TMJ.
Contrary to popular belief, however, healthy posture isn’t all about sitting up straight. The spine does have a series of natural curves, after all. Instead, good posture is about maintaining proper alignment of the three natural curves of the spine.
Whether sitting, standing or walking, aim to maintain a slight inward curve at the base of the neck. Keep the spine’s midsection rounded outward and the lower back curved slightly inward.
Good sleep posture is important as well. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees, or on your back with a pillow under your knees, supports the spine and may help prevent TMJ symptoms.
Finally, researchers have noted a possible link between cell phones and TMJ. Although further study is necessary to prove this correlation, it’s best not to tempt fate. Always avoid cradling your phone between your neck and shoulder, especially for long periods of time.
Other Self-Care Strategies
Some people who suffer from TMJ find that regularly massaging the jaw, cheek and temple muscles helps to alleviate or prevent TMJ symptoms.
Applying moist heat or ice can help if you have spasms and pain. Medical opinions are divided as to which is more beneficial, so experiment to see which works best for you.
If you tend to clench and grind your teeth, day or night, it’s important to address the issue with a dental professional. Stopping these habits will eliminate the stress they can have on your facial muscles and jaw joint.
Finally, work on your stress level. Many people respond to stress by clenching their teeth, often subconsciously or during the night. Yoga, meditation and massage are all helpful for calming the mind and relaxing the body.
In Salt Lake City, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah provides the highest level of care at the most affordable prices. Contact us today to learn more about how to prevent TMJ and related disorders of the jaw.