Self-Care Program for TMJ and Jaw Pain
Check your jaw's resting position
The only time your teeth should touch is when you chew or swallow. We suggest that you closely monitor your jaw position during the day so that you maintain your jaw in a relaxed position. By placing your tongue lightly on your palate behind your upper front teeth and relaxing the muscles in your face, neck, and shoulders, you will find your teeth come apart slightly. This is the rested position for your jaw.
Apply Moist Heat
Wrap a moist, hot towel around a heated gel pack or a hot water bottle and apply it to the painful jaw or neck muscles for 15 minutes, two to four times a day. This can help reduce joint and muscle pain or tightness and is recommended especially for situations when pain increases with opening.
Ice wrapped in a thin washcloth applied directly to the painful TMJ for 10 minutes, two to four times each day can also be helpful in reducing inflammation and pain. Icing is especially recommended with joint pain that increases when biting down.
Avoid eating hard and chewy foods, such as French bread, bagels, steak, pizza, hard candy, etc. Avoid biting off foods with your front teeth. When you use your front teeth to bite or chew, you bring your jaw forward and then apply force down which puts additional strain on the joints. Therefore, cut your food into small pieces and place it directly on your back teeth. DO NOT CHEW GUM.
Change your chewing
Most people tend to favor chewing their food on one side more than the other, which can cause increased strain on the muscles and joints. Therefore, try to balance your chewing so that you are using both sides equally.
Break unhealthy oral habits
Avoid oral habits that put strain on the jaw muscles and joints. These include teeth clenching, teeth grinding (bruxism), teeth touching or resting together, biting cheeks, tongue or lip, biting pens, pencils or other objects, gum chewing, tongue pushing against teeth, jaw tensing or other habits.
Don't rest your jaw on your hand
Avoid resting your jaw on your hand or fist. This will not allow your jaw to maintain that rested position.
Caffeine is a drug that contracts muscles (can make your muscles tighter). Caffeine or caffeine-like drugs are in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate. Be aware, even decaffeinated coffee does have some caffeine in it.
Avoid activities that stress the jaw
Avoid activities that involve a wide opening of the jaw (yawning, prolonged dental treatment, etc.) for a period of time until your condition has stabilized.
Change up your sleeping position
Avoid stomach sleeping since this puts adverse forces on the jaw and neck muscles. Sleeping on your back or sides allows your jaw to fall into a more rested position, is more relaxing for your neck and therefore is the best sleeping position for your jaw and neck.