Physical Therapy For TMJ

As a holistic dentist in Jacksonville, Florida we think it is important to understand that the health of the mouth can affect the health of the body as a whole. For sufferers of temporomandibular joint pain, or TMJ, this reality can affect your daily life. TMJ is a rather common condition that affects patients in many different ways. This is in large due to the fact that TMJ has many causes. Because there are so many causes and symptoms, it can be a difficult treatment to correct, however our Jacksonville, Florida dental practice chooses to deal with cases of TMJ conservatively and with a holistic approach. Much can be done for a TMJ sufferer with the use of physical therapy.

Understanding TMJ

The temporomandibular joint is one of the most versatile joints in the entire body. It can move vertically as well as horizontally in two different directions. Its wide range of motion enables us to bite, chew and swallow foods and speak to one another. It is very important and any dysfunction of this joint or the surrounding musculature can cause dysfunction throughout the body. People experiencing TMJ pain may have pain or tenderness in the jaw, joints, facial muscles and even up to the ear. It can be difficult to due to this pain and frequent “locking” of the jaw joint open and closed. The causes of TMJ pain are just as vast as the symptoms. They can stem from  clenching of the jaw due to stress or bruxism – unconscious tooth grinding. They can stem from an abnormality in the jaw bone causing malocclusion, and even inflammation in the jaw joint like arthritis. TMJ can also be caused by previous trauma or injury to the jaw. No matter the cause of TMJ, the symptoms can prevent patients from living full and happy lives by causing pain and depriving them from eating certain foods, speaking for periods of time, and having fun with their friends and family.

Treating TMJ

When dentists are called to treat TMJ do so with great caution. This is one disorder where invasive intervention can cause great distress to the patient for years to come. To treat TMJ your Jacksonville, Florida dentist must first discover the cause of your pain. Depending on the cause treatment may be relatively easy. For patients who experience stress and bruxism, a mouth guard worn at night may be extremely beneficial. By cushioning the strain on the muscles a mouth guard can protect the jaw, teeth, and cartilage from becoming damaged. If malocclusion is the cause of jaw pain, alignment treatments like Invisalign may help move the teeth so they do not put undue pressure on the jaw, however this may also be ineffective. Finally there are several surgeries that aim to re-cushion and correct any abnormalities in the jaw that may cause TMJ pain. Most dentists prefer to see if all other methods of treatment are possible before resorting to life-changing surgery.

Pain medications, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy are all very common and useful methods of treating the pain associated with TMJ. The idea is that you can stretch your jaw muscles out on a daily basis to prevent pain, and if it does occur medications can help manage it. It has been proven to be a very effective course of treatment and depending on how TMJ affects your life, may be worth a try.

Jaw Exercises

Stretching the muscles in your jaw can be very beneficial to prevent episodes of pain from happening. By stretching your temporomandibular muscles you can also gain a greater understanding of your disorder and work to reduce pain over a long period of time.

  1. Touch the tip of your tongue where your soft and hard palate meet and slowly move your  jaw backwards and forwards. Hold each position for five to ten seconds.
  2. Touch the tip of your tongue to where the soft and hard palate meet and open your mouth as wide as you are able. Hold this position for five to ten seconds.
  3. With a relaxed tongue open your mouth and hold this position, next glide your jaw from side to side – slowly and comfortably – five to ten times.
  4. With your mouth closed stretch your jaw from side to side, holding for five to ten seconds in between movements.

Ask your Jacksonville, for any more exercises that may help to stretch out your jaw muscles and minimize the pain you have caused by TMJ. With many causes and many treatments, a holistic approach to treating this disorder is the most recommended way to go.

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