TMJ disorder is a condition affecting the jaw, specifically the temporomandibular joints on each side of the face where the lower jaw connects to the skull. When this joint becomes irritated due to overuse or injury, it can become painful and restrict the movement of the jaw.
In some cases TMJ disorder comes and goes. When symptoms are present it is called a flare up. Learn more about TMJ flare ups, such as how long they last and what to do when it happens.
What is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder occurs when one or both of the temporomandibular joints are inflamed, misaligned, or damaged in some way. This can occur due to teeth grinding, an injury to the jaw or side of the face, or excessive chewing.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
Symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Pain in the jaw
- Pain in the temple region of the head
- Ear pain
- Limited movement of the jaw
- Popping or clicking sound when opening and closing your mouth
- Tension in the facial muscles
- Pain or tension in the neck
What is a TMJ Flare Up?
A TMJ flare up refers to a period of time when you have any of the above symptoms. These symptoms may come and go, but when they persist for 24 hours or more, it is considered a flare up. If you’ve ever been diagnosed with TMJ disorder, a flare up is always possible.
How Long Do TMJ Flare Ups Last?
A TMJ flare up may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. How long it lasts may depend on a few factors, such as how you treat your symptoms and the severity of your specific case of TMJ disorder.
What to Do When You Have a Flare Up
When you experience a TMJ flare up, there are some things you can do to get relief of your symptoms, such as:
- Apply ice. Apply an ice pack or cold compress directly to one or both sides of your face where you feel pain, alternating 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. Do this for the first 24-48 hours to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Apply heat. It can also be helpful to apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to the sides of the face after the first 48 hours of the flare up. Apply for 15 minutes 3-4 times a day. Heat relaxes tense muscles and promotes circulation for faster healing.
- Rest your jaw. Try to rest your jaw as much as possible. Avoid talking, singing, yawning, and any other activity that requires movement of the jaw.
- Eat a soft diet. Eat soft foods that don’t require chewing so that your jaw can rest.
- Take anti-inflammatory pain medication. Anti-inflammatory pain medications include Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen), which relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
If your symptoms persist after a few days of the above treatments, it may be time to call your dentist. Your dentist can provide additional treatment options such as:
- Oral appliance. A variety of oral appliances can be made by your dentist to help relieve your TMJ symptoms. Night guards prevent damage from teeth grinding and bite splints help the jaw move in proper alignment.
- Prescription medication. When over the counter pain medication is not effective, your dentist can prescribe stronger medication to provide relief of your TMJ symptoms.
- Injectable medication or BOTOX. Injectable medications work to relieve pain and inflammation right at the source. BOTOX relaxes the muscles in your TMJ to relieve tension and stop habits like teeth grinding that cause flare ups.
When no other treatments provide relief of chronic TMJ symptoms, surgery may be recommended to reconstruct the joint.
Where to Get Treatment for TMJ Flare Ups
Dentists are not just experts on teeth, but on the anatomy of the mouth and jaw. TMJ disorder is a common condition that affects oral health, meaning your dentist should be the first point of contact if you experience symptoms.
Creekview Dental provides treatment for TMJ disorder and TMJ flare ups. We offer solutions that can prevent future flare ups and keep your temporomandibular joints healthy.
Call 651-738-8204 or contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.