Living with TMD is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and often painful. Treatment is usually very effective but may take several appointments. For those times when you’re between appointments, it is helpful to have strategies for managing your TMD symptoms. Here are some options you can easily incorporate into your daily routine:
SOFT FOOD DIET
TMD symptoms can be triggered by hard, crunchy, large, or chewy foods. As soon as you start to feel discomfort, try switching to softer foods that do not require your jaws to work hard. We recommend things like eggs, baked potatoes, soup, pasta, canned fruit, soft fruits like berries and bananas, apple sauce, fish (without the skin), rice, cous-cous, and well-cooked or canned vegetables, to name a few.
When eating, cut your food into small pieces and try not to take large bites directly from a whole piece of food, like you would with an apple or a sandwich. Foods to limit or avoid, if possible, include bread, pretzels and chips, nuts, hard candies, raw vegetables, certain raw fruits like apples, pears, peaches, and nectarines, and most cuts of meat and poultry. These foods are harder on your jaw muscles. Chewing gum or any type of sticky candy, like caramel or taffy, will only make the problem worse, so you should definitely stay away from them.
For the times when your jaw feels tense, moderate heat can help loosen it up. Place a damp hand towel, large enough to wrap around your face, in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds.
Always check the temperature to make sure it is comfortable. The towel should be very warm but not hot enough to burn your skin. If the towel is too hot fresh out of the microwave, let it sit for a minute, and then check it again. Once you’re comfortable with the temperature of the towel, wrap it under your chin and up both sides of your cheeks, ending at your jaw joints. Repeat this process as needed after the towel has cooled down.
It can take several applications before you feel the effects. Moist heat is very helpful before bedtime and after you wake up in the morning. The heat is relaxing and helps to ease some of the built-up tension from a stressful day at work or a night of clenching and grinding your teeth.
TAKE TIME TO RELAX
Life is hectic and stressful for most of us. Stress manifests in many ways, one being jaw tension and TMD. If you lead a high-stress lifestyle, relaxation and breathing techniques are one way to help de-stress your body and loosen up your muscles.
Mindful breathing, meditation, low-impact stretching, or just carving out time each day to do something calming is going to benefit your overall health and diminish your TMD symptoms. The key is to find something that will help reduce the stress in your life and make it part of your routine.
There are several different exercises and stretches that target your facial muscles and temporomandibular joints. We may recommend a few that you can do at home to relax your jaw when you feel your symptoms flaring up.
Before doing any facial or jaw exercises that you find online or that someone else recommends, please consult Dr. Kushner to get the green light from her. We don’t want you to end up in more pain than when you started.