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What Are Temporomandibular Joints?

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It’s not likely that you consider your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) very often however, you do use frequently. The joints connect your jawbone with your skull. Your TMJ activates every time you speak or chew. It also helps swallow.

TMJ disorders happen when there is a problem in your jaw joints or jaw muscles. It is usually due to a jaw injury, inflammation, such as arthritis, or excessive use.

TMJ disorders can trigger mild to severe symptoms like:

Pain while chewing
tension in the ear jaw, face, neck
clicking or popping sounding from your jaw whenever you close or open your mouth
The jaw joint is locked

It’s not known precisely how TMD jaw exercises can ease discomfort. They’re believed to help:

strengthen jaw muscles
Stretch the jaw
Relax the jaw
improve jaw mobility
reduce jaw clicking
promote jaw healing

According to a study in 2010 that was published by the Journal of Dental Research, doing TMJ exercises can increase the mouth opening more than wearing a mouthguard in patients with TMJ disc dislocation.

These nine exercises provided by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) as well as The Royal Surrey County Hospital may aid in relieving TMJ discomfort and increase the motion that your jaw joints can perform. For certain exercises there are frequency guidelines. For exercises for which frequency recommendations aren’t provided consult your physician or dentist for assistance.

1. Relaxed jaw exercises

Relax your tongue at the upper part of your mouth, behind your front teeth. Let your teeth fall apart as you relax the jaw muscles.

2. Goldfish exercises (partial opening)

Put your tongue onto the surface of your mouth. Then, place one finger is placed in front of your ear, where your TMJ is. Place your pointer or middle finger on your jaw. The lower jaw should be dropped half way and then close it. There should be a slight discomfort, but no pain. Another variation is to place one hand on each TMJ while you lower your jaw and close it once more. Perform this exercise 6 times in one set. The goal is to complete one set every day six times.

3. Goldfish exercise (full opening)

While keeping your tongue to the surface of your mouth place your fingers on the TMJ and the other finger on your cheek. Lower your jaw completely, then return. To perform a different version of this exercise, put an extra finger in each of the jaws while you lower your jaw. You can then go return. Repeat this exercise 6 times to complete a set. The goal is to complete one set of six times a day.

4. Chin tucks

As you bring your shoulders forward and your chest raised and your chest up, pull your chin backwards and create the appearance of a “double chin.” Keep it for three seconds before repeating 10 times.

5. Resisted opening the mouth

Put your thumb underneath your chin. Relax your mouth and slowly open it and gently press against your chin to create resistance. Do this for three to six seconds and then slowly close your mouth.

6. The mouth was not closed.

Press your chin against your thumb and index with your other hand. Close your mouth while you apply gentle pressure to your cheeks. This will build your muscles to aid in chewing.

7. Tongue up

Your tongue should be reaching the top of your mouth. Slowly expand and close your mouth.

8. Side-to-side jaw movement

Set a 1/4-inch object, for example, tongue depressors stacked behind your front teeth and gradually shift the jaw side-to-side. When the process gets easier, raise the size of the object that is placed between your teeth . You can stack them on top of the next.

9. Forward jaw movement

Set a 1/4-inch objects between the teeth of both fronts. Your jaw will move towards the front so that you have your lower teeth the front of your upper teeth. When the exercise becomes more comfortable you can increase the size of the object that is between your teeth.

Pain relievers that are available over-the-counter, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen could aid in relieving TMJ discomfort. The use of muscle relaxers is often recommended for pain that is severe. Doctors might also recommend:

mouth guards that stop jaw clenching and teeth grinding
mouth guards can help you align your jaw.
warm towels
Ice, not more than 15 mins per hour, and never directly onto the skin
methods to relieve stress and avoid jaw tension
Acupuncture is a method of relieving the pressure in the area affected

In severe cases, pain from joint damage may require more aggressive treatments, like corticosteroid injections into TMJ. Surgery could be considered as an option last resort. There’s no scientific proof that surgical procedures for TMJ problems are safe or efficient.

TMJ pain can be treated by simple lifestyle adjustments. You could consider:

Eat a diet that is soft to allow your TMJ to ease.
Beware of chewing gum
avoid biting your nails
avoid biting your lower lip
Make sure you practice a to maintain a good posture
restrict jaw movements that are large that cause jaw movement, like yawning or singing

If you suffer from TMJ, it can be difficult to maintain simple oral hygiene. This means flossing your teeth, brushing and regular dental cleanings.

The TMJ Association recommends these tips to help ease pain and keep your gums and teeth remain well-maintained:

Make use of a soft-bristle or a sonic brush.
Make use of a rubber tip stimulator or water flosser if cannot open your mouth in order to floss.
Include an antiseptic mouth wash to your regular dental hygiene routine.
Inform your dental team If you’re experiencing pain during the course of a dental procedure.
Use ice or heat following an oral procedure.
Consult your dentist about methods of removing plaque that are not flossing. For instance, they might recommend wiping your teeth clean with gauze made of cotton.

In certain instances, TMJ disorders go away in their own way. If your symptoms persist, TMJ exercises may help bring pain relief. TMJ exercises should not be performed during times of intense discomfort. The AAFP suggests waiting until the discomfort is less severe before beginning an TMJ workout routine.

When you are doing TMJ exercises, you should start slow. There may be some discomfort initially but it will be manageable, and then gradually decrease. If you are experiencing pain that is not tolerable Consult your physician. You should perform TMJ exercises while at ease. If you perform them while your muscles are tight it could derail the point.

If your pain gets worse after performing TMJ exercises, schedule an appointment with your physician.