If you’ve ever experienced TMJ disorder, you may know that flare ups can occur without warning. All it takes is a trigger of some kind to cause inflammation of the temporomandibular joints, resulting in pain and limited movement of your jaw.
You may be wondering how long TMJ flare ups tend to last and what you can do to get relief from your symptoms. Here’s what you can expect along with some tips to help make flare ups more manageable.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, the place on each side of your face where your lower jaw connects to your skull. It is located in the temple region of your head. If you place your fingers in front of your ears and open and close your mouth, you can feel your TMJ working.
TMJ disorder, sometimes called TMD, is the term used to describe a condition affecting these joints. Then the TMJ becomes irritated or inflamed, it can cause a variety of symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of a TMJ Flare Up?
The symptoms of TMJ disorder and TMJ flare ups can include any of the following:
- Pain in the area of the TMJ. TMJ disorder can cause pain in the area of the joint or throughout the jaw due to inflammation of the tissues.
- Pain in the facial muscles. The muscles of the face that work with the movement of the jaw may become tense or sore.
- Limited movement in the jaw. You may find that you can’t open your mouth as wide as you would normally be able to. In some cases you may find that you can’t fully close your mouth as well.
- Popping or clicking sound when moving the jaw. Misalignment of the jaw, swollen tissues, and slipped disc can all cause a popping or clicking sound as the bones rub together and the ligaments slip over the bones.
- Headaches. It is common to get headaches with TMJ disorder, especially in the temple region of the head and the back of the neck.
What Causes TMJ Flare Ups?
The causes of TMJ flare ups are often the same as what caused the disorder to occur in the first place. Common causes include:
- Teeth grinding. If you grind or clench your teeth it puts excess strain on your TMJ, which can result in a flare up.
- Excessive chewing. Chewing constantly throughout the day, such as gum or frequent snacking can overwork your TMJ and cause a flare up.
- Eating hard or chewy foods. Eating foods that are hard to chew or particularly chewy can cause your TMJ to become irritated or inflamed from excess force.
- Arthritis. The same arthritis that causes inflammation and pain in your other joints can also affect your TMJ and cause a flare up.
Average Length of TMJ Flare Ups
A typical TMJ flare up may last a day or two. If your symptoms persist for a week or more, contact your dentist to discuss potential treatments that could provide relief. Severe symptoms that continue for more than a few weeks despite treatment could require more involved treatment from your dentist.
How Can I Get Relief From TMJ Symptoms?
Here are some suggestions for how to handle TMJ flare ups:
- Apply ice. When you apply ice to the affected area it can reduce swelling and inflammation, which may also reduce pain.
- Rest your jaw. Try not to move your jaw any more than you have to. Do your best to avoid yawning. Do not force your jaw to open or close.
- Eat a soft diet. Another way to rest your jaw is to eat a soft food or liquid diet that doesn’t require much chewing.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication. Over the counter pain medications if not allergic such as ibuprofen and naproxen have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling and pain.
- Wear a mouthguard at night. If you have a mouth guard that you don’t always wear, start wearing it again at the first sign of a flare up. A custom-made mouthguard can be made for you by your dentist designed specifically to aid in resolving your TMD issues.
If Symptoms Persist See a Periodontist
If you have frequent flare ups or you don’t experience relief with self treatment options, it may be time to seek professional treatment. Dentists often treat TMJ disorder, but periodontists specialize in the support structures for the teeth, including the jaw. Progressive Periodontics & Implant Dentistry can provide lasting relief of your TMJ symptoms to prevent flare ups in the future.
Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.