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The “Temporomandibular Joint,” more commonly referred to as the “jaw joint,” assists in the basic opening and closing movements of the jaw. Unfortunately, this joint is a common area for recurring pain. Although conventional wisdom suggests that “popping” sounds in the jaw indicates a TMJ dysfunction, this is not always true. Many times, your jaw is functioning properly even if a “popping” sound is present when chewing or talking.

We do a TMJ exam that evaluates the joint tissue in the “hinge” of the jaw. Possible problems include swelling, deterioration of the joint tissue or damaged joint tissue (which cushions the jaw bones during the opening and closing movement of the mouth). Common pain relievers and cold compresses can provide temporary relief for most cases of TMJ.

For more serious cases of TMJ, we will recommend alternate treatments. Often, we will suggest using a mouth guard to relieve teeth grinding. In some cases, we will instruct you to use orthodontic appliances or retainers to alleviate discomfort or redirect positioning of the TMJ joint. For the most severe cases of TMJ, we may recommend certain invasive procedures.

Having TMJ Pain?


Soft Diet

  • Switch to a soft diet (baby food, soups, milkshakes, eggs, hamburgers, etc.) until symptoms improve.

  • Cut all food into small bite-size pieces. Do not open your mouth any wider than the thickness of your thumb. Avoid biting hard with your front teeth.

  • Do not eat hard crusts of bread, tough meat, raw vegetables or any other food that requires prolonged chewing. DO NOT CHEW GUM!!!


  • Over the counter pain relievers (Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil) have an anti-inflammatory effect in higher doses. Take 600 mg. Every six hours to reduce joint inflammation.

  • Read warnings and follow directions on the bottle. Do not use higher doses on an empty stomach, with alcohol or if you have stomach disorders (colitis, etc.)

  • Do not use this dosage for more than 10 days.

 Moist Heat

  • Moist heat is a very effective way to increase blood flow, which will promote healing, muscle relaxation and pain relief.

  • Fill a sink with water as hot as the skin can stand and soak two hand towels in it. Take one out, wring it out and apply it to BOTH sides of the face, not just the painful side. When the first towel cools off, apply the second towel.

  • This procedure should be carried out for 20 minutes, three times a day (or more), allowing at least a 20-minute interval between applications. Moist heat should be applied upon awakening and before going to bed at night.

  • Moist heat packs (hydrocollars) or moist heat pads (electric) are available at drugstores and are easier and more efficient to use.

  • Use ice for acute injuries or if you don’t respond well to heat or are uncomfortable using it, alternate heat and ice (10 minutes each).


One of the most important steps in management is resting the jaw muscles and joints. A habit of clenching and grinding your teeth, excessive talking or abnormal head and neck posture will aggravate jaw joint problems. You must make a conscious effort to keep your teeth apart and at the same time, relax your facial muscles.

  • Repeat to yourself several times a day, “Teeth apart – jaws relaxed”. This simple step will relax the very muscles that become tense, permitting more normal positioning of the jaw joints.

  • Remember the only time your teeth should touch is during swallowing and chewing. Have someone watch for excessive contraction of your cheek muscles to help you reduce clenching habits.

  • Do not lean on your chin or sleep on your lower jaw. Sleeping on your back will aid jaw muscle relaxation. Chew in an area where clicking and popping can be avoided.

Sleep is extremely important to any healing process. A restless night’s sleep will make this worse so be sure to AVOID ANY STIMULANTS which affect sleep. This includes coffee, tea, cigarettes, alcohol, sugar and chocolate.

Reduce the Effects of Stress

  • Do some type of physical exercise (walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics) at least one-half hour daily.

  • Practice relaxation techniques.

If you have any questions about the above instructions, do not hesitate to call our office.

The time it takes to manage your problem will largely depend upon your willingness to follow these instructions. 

You must assume the major responsibility for effective management.

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