How can I help my TMJ?

Photography by: Alexandra Rowley
NaturalHealthMag.com

a DENTIST says TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the ball and socket joint that allows the lower jaw to open, close and move sideways. Inflammation and stress can tense the muscles, tendons and ligaments. ”
TREATMENT I check to see if a patient has been grinding or clenching their teeth. If so, I can give them a mouthpiece that fits precisely over the upper or lower teeth, which relaxes the jaw, allows me to evaluate the bite, and helps protect against wear of the teeth during high stress times. For very severe cases, I recommend orthodontics such as braces. If the jaw is out of place, jaw surgery may be needed. ”
SELF-HELP Be aware of bad habits like clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth, and ice chewing. For flareups, alternate a hot pack with an ice pack for 15 minutes at a time on the affected area. —Brody Hildebrand, D.D.S., at Preston Hollow Specialists, professor at Baylor College of Dentistry

a PSYCHOLOGIST says TMJ is both a mental and physical problem. Stress, anxiety and worry can exacerbate TMJ—some people’s physiological response to these issues is to clench their jaw or grind their teeth. ”
TREATMENT I suggest relaxation techniques in combination with biofeedback. I use clinical biofeedback to help you consciously recognize your physiological patterns and responses to stress. By placing the biofeedback pulses on your forehead muscle (where we show worry and anxiety), you can measure the tension in your forehead. When you’re aware of how your body is responding, you are more able to control the tension that is being felt. ”
SELF-HELP Sit comfortably and observe the rise and fall of your breath, repeating the word “in” as you inhale, then “out” as you exhale. Practice for ten to 15 minutes daily to improve relaxation and self-awareness. —Randy Kamen-Gredinger, Ed.D., in private practice in Wayland, Mass.

a CHIROPRACTOR says TMJ happens when the joint connecting the mandible jaw to the skull experiences multiple spasms. A tight joint muscle can cause these spasms or a dislocation of the disk located between the jawbone and the socket. ”
TREATMENT I use a low frequency TENS (transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation) unit that stimulates the facial nerve with an electric current. It allows the jaw to relax in its ideal position (where users experience no pain, popping, or clicking). When the spasms are more severe, I advise patients to consider their posture— slouching or sitting with your shoulders hunched can increase pressure, which can increase the pain level. ”
SELF-HELP Try this: With your lips closed and teeth open, stick the tip of your tongue onto the roof of your mouth. Repeat this ten times. This will stretch the jaw muscles and prevent you from clenching your teeth. —Thomas Hyland Robertson, D.C., of Whole Chiropractic Healthcare in Odenton, Md