There are a couple of reasons that you may notice TMJ symptoms following a dental procedure:
1. Any period of prolonged opening of the mouth may fatigue or stress muscles and trigger symptoms. I like to routinely offer patients mouth props to help avoid straining the muscles to hold open during longer procedures. This is basically just a little rubber wedge that you can rest your teeth on, while still holding open. You may wish to request a mouth prop and additional time for small breaks during long appointments.
2. Your body and your teeth are always seeking balance and the teeth form a perfect little landscape, with upper teeth biting equally into lower teeth and all of your muscles resting in a comfortable position. Any time a tooth changes shape from wear, orthodontics, or maybe from dental crowns and fillings, the "landscape" of your mouth has changed. If something is slightly out of balance, your muscles will notice and you can experience uncomfortable symptoms. This fitting together of teeth is called Occlusion. An adjustment of your occlusion may be necessary to find relief.
Here are some ideas for TMJ Discomfort:
- Soft food diet for 1 week. Chewy/tough meats and hard nuts can sometimes cause discomfort
- Avoid chewing gum, sleeping on your stomach, cradling phones on your shoulder, any positions that may put your head and neck in unnatural positions
- Warm, moist compresses (moisten a washcloth and warm slightly in the microwave) hold against the uncomfortable joint
- See your dentist to have a custom nightguard fabricated and carefully equilibrated. This will cushion your teeth and protect from the damage of clenching/grinding
- See your dentist to check your occlusion following the fillings. They may need to be adjusted.
- Magnesium has been found to soothe muscle tension
- Investigate stress reduction techniques such as meditation, floating, yoga, and physical therapy
Arlene Messer, DDS
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