TMJ Symptoms and Preventive Measures
Diagnosis:Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
The term Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJ is characterized by pain or tenderness in temporomandibular joint and/or surrounding muscles. Years ago, I experienced pain on the left side of my jaw. I used a heating pad at first and took some acetaminophen for the pain. After I visited my family doctor, I was told that I should go see my dentist. I was surprised to hear this, but followed doctor’s orders and went to see my dentist. Before then, I had never heard of TMJ. My dentist told me he had seen this many times and he could make me an appliance to wear at night that should solve the problem. He said the appliance will prevent my teeth from grinding and being misaligned. They took a mold of my mouth with what look like mushy playdough. In no time, he had a completed mold that he was going to use to build the custom appliance.
I forget how long it took for the appliance to be made, but in the meantime, I continued my home remedies of using a heating pad, taking acetaminophen and avoiding sleeping on my left side. When I returned to the dentist, the appliance was ready and it fitted like a glove. It was smaller than I thought and fitted over my front top two teeth (not all the teeth like the over-the-counter ones that they now sell in stores). It was uncomfortable at first, and I thought to myself, how I can wear this, will I be able to sleep, and do I have it wear it forever?
Update: Well, it’s now years later, and I now use a different type of appliance which I purchased at a drugstore. The original one was worn out and no longer fit properly, so I experimented with different types of more affordable dental mouth guards, and the best one I have found is made by DenTek. I have found it twin packs and even triple packs, which is handy and saves your money, because after a few months, you will need to purchase a new one to wear. Most of the custom fit night guards available in local drug stores require you to first trim the appliance if it is too big, then boil it, quickly cool it for a few seconds and then adhere it to your teeth and gums, pressing it in place so you create a custom fit. It works pretty well, and I like this brand because it's blue in color (verses clear color which yellows quickly).
To clean your appliance: Gently scrub the appliance with a toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste. You can also dip it in mouthwash for 10 seconds or so, then rinse it thoroughly (if you are in a hurry). I tried soaking previous store-bought (custom-fit) appliances in water with a dissolved dental cleaning tablet, but soaking it for too long seem to make it wear out faster.
Preventive Measures That I Practice to Beat TMJ
There are a few other things I have done over the years as additional preventive measures:
No Nail Biting – I used to bite my nails when I was younger, and then occasionally as an adult. I know nail biting is not a good idea if you have TMJ, so as a rule of thumb, I don’t bite my nails.
No Gum Chewing – Since excessive chewing may aggravate TMJ, I decided to give up chewing gum. I don’t miss it that much. Once in a blue, blue moon, I treat myself to a piece of gum but I don’t chew it that long. I actually haven’t had a piece of gum in a few years. No biggie.
Avoid Chewy Candy – Again, like the gum, sticky chewy candy is not a good idea for TMJ, or teeth (especially if you’ve had dental work, like crowns), so I avoid that type of candy. I don’t miss the candy too much and it gives me a reason to head for the chocolate. But then I’m lactose intolerant, so let’s not go there…that will be another hub.
Avoid Sleeping On Your Bad Side – Since my left side was where the pain was, I avoided sleeping on my left side at all cost. Initially I was actually afraid to sleep on my side, because of the pain. Overtime, like everything else, I just got used to it. I sleep on my right side occasionally, but for the most part, I sleep on my back most of the time. I never sleep on my stomach, and that’s not good for your back anyway.
Wear the Appliance Religiously – And as I mentioned before, I wear a custom appliance every night.
Acetaminophen for Occasional Pain – Once in awhile, if I feel any discomfort in my jaw, I take 2 acetaminophen tablets at bedtime.
No Whining and Think Happy, Positive Thoughts – As an adult, and the older you get, the more you learn to deal with things and not whine. It helps to not whine and not complain about things. Instead, it helps to look on the bright side of things. So rather than complain, I think happy thoughts, use some positive thinking and just keep thinking about being well. It’s like in the DVD and book, The Secret, which is by the way, my favorite DVD and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
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© 2010 Amelia Griggs