How To Reduce TMJ Pain During Dental Visits
If you have temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ, then your jaw and facial muscles are likely quite sensitive and painful. Your jaw also may pop and feel tight. Arthritis, stress, tooth grinding, and jaw injury can all cause the condition, and you may find it difficult to keep your mouth open for an extended period of time. This can make regular dental visits both difficult and painful. Unfortunately, skipped dental visits can lead to a build up of tartar on the teeth and the formation of cavities. Dental visits can be pain free though.
Ask Your Dentist to Use Supports
Dental visits can be uncomfortable for people with TMJ, because the jaw cannot be opened wide due to tight muscles and tendons around the jaw joints. Also, stress is placed against the jaw when your dental professional rests their hands on the mouth when cleaning the teeth. This can force the mouth open wider than is normally comfortable. Not only is the discomfort bothersome, but routine dental exams can be lengthened significantly when you ask to take breaks during your appointment.
Jaw Support Devices
Stress, discomfort, and breaks can all be reduced if your dentist uses a jaw support device. Ask your dentist if this type of product can be used during your dental appointments. The jaw support attaches around the shoulders and chest and a foam protrusion sits underneath the jaw. The foam pad is moveable and adjusted to your height. Once adjustments are made, your chin rests on the padding during the entirety of your dental visit.
If your dentist does not have a jaw support device, consider bringing a pillow with you that can be placed comfortably underneath your chin. Your dental professional can place two or three rolled up towels on your chest and under your jaw as well to provide added support.
Take Muscle Relaxants
If you have a mild or moderate case of TMJ, then your doctor or dentist may ask you to take NSAID pain relievers alone to treat your condition. This can reduce normal discomfort, but the medications cannot reduce pain during high stress situations. Muscle relaxants can relax your jaw muscles during these times. Muscle relaxants help to reduce muscle spasms that can occur when the mouth is open for an extended period of time. The drugs work within the brain to stop the motor neurons from becoming excited. This stops the brain from sending messages that the jaw muscles should contract.
Muscle relaxants have a sedative effect on the entire body, so they can reduce general stress during dental exams as well. You may feel sleepy when taking the medication though, so make sure to arrange for a ride to and from the dental office if your physician prescribes muscle relaxants for use during dental appointments.
Massage the Jaw
Medical professionals often indicate that TMJ can be assisted with the use of facial massage. Massaging the jaw joints and muscles can loosen the tissues and reduce stress and discomfort. You can massage your own jaw, and this is a good idea before dental appointments. Use your fingers to gently rub your face where your top and bottom jaws come together. Use circular motions and extend the massage across the upper cheek and lower jaw area.
Once you complete the massage, stretch your jaw muscles by opening your jaw as wide as you can. Hold your jaw in place for 15 seconds and close your mouth. Repeat the process 10 times to make sure your jaw muscles are as loose as possible. You can also place a warm cloth on your face for several minutes to help soothe and loosen your jaw muscles as well.
If you have TMJ, then dental visits may be extremely uncomfortable for you. Fortunately, they do not have to be as long as you ask your dentist to use a jaw support and you take muscle relaxants before appointments. Massaging your jaw can offer assistance too.