A number of factors can contribute to TMJ pain, commonly referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder. Common causes include injury or dislocation, arthritis, misalignment of the teeth and jaw, and teeth grinding. A comprehensive dental examination that includes the facial joints and muscles is the best way to identify the cause of TMJ pain. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, conservative treatments are often the best approach. NIDCR recommendations include:
- avoiding hard to chew foods,
- avoiding biting your nails or chewing gum,
- using relaxation techniques to alleviate jaw tension, and
- using heat packs to ease the pain.
If these methods do not work, a dentist may recommend additional treatments, including
- jaw strengthening exercises,
- muscle relaxants or pain medications, or
- a night guard to prevent you from grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep.
In more extreme cases, your dentist may suggest orthodontic treatment or reshaping the teeth to correct an uneven bite.