Many patients with TMJ pain find that the pain is at its worst when they have to open their mouths wide or keep them open for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, this means they often skip flossing, brushing their back teeth thoroughly, and visiting the dentist, because they come to see these as painful experiences. Living with TMJ is no walk in the park, but if you're not careful to take good care of your teeth in spite of your jaw pain, you'll soon be living with TMJ, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Here are some tips to make dental care less painful, so you don't have to choose between good oral health and jaw comfort.
Making Brushing And Flossing More Comfortable
For most patients, the pain associated with brushing and flossing comes when they open their mouths wide to focus on the back teeth. You can minimize this pain by first brushing every surface of your teeth you can reach without opening your mouth wide. Then, open your mouth wider for just a brief moment while you quickly brush those back teeth. If your pain is severe, you might want to only brush these areas once a day. Brush the areas you don't have to open your mouth to reach twice per day. This isn't ideal, but it's better than avoiding brushing all-together.
You can make up, at least somewhat, for your less effective brushing by using an anti-cavity mouthwash after each tooth-brushing session. You can even suck it in between your front teeth, so you barely have to open your jaw at all, and then swish it around for 30 seconds before spitting it out. This will kill oral bacteria that weren't removed during brushing.
Is flossing too painful? Try using plastic dental flosser picks instead of standard floss. You won't have to open your mouth quite as wide to reach those back teeth.
You can ease the pain associated with all aspects of dental care by applying a warm compress to your jaw for a few minutes before you brush or floss. The warmth will relax and soothe your muscles, making it easier and less painful to open your mouth.
Taking The Pain Out Of Dental Visits
Keeping your mouth open for 20 minutes or longer as your dentist cleans you teeth can be excruciating if you have severe TMJ pain. However, avoiding dental cleanings is not wise, since cavities and other dental problems tend to get worse the longer you wait to have them treated.
Make sure you tell your dentist you have severe TMJ pain when you make your appointment. He or she may prescribe a muscle relaxer or pain reliever you can take before your appointment to make it more comfortable. Your dentist may also be able to break your dental procedures into chunks, so you can have part of the treatment on one day, and part on another day. This way, you don't have to have your mouth open as long.
Mentioning your TMJ pain to your dentist also has another benefit. He or she may have a new treatment to recommend. Even if you have tried common treatments such as wearing a mouth guard or having your bite adjusted in the past, your dentist may have a new suggestion that can reduce your pain permanently. Many patients with severe TMJ give up trying after a few treatments don't work, but if you're persistent, there's a good chance that you and your dentist will eventually discover the perfect combination that alleviates your TMJ symptoms. Then, everyday activities like brushing your teeth won't be so terrible anymore.
In the meantime, do the best you can to keep up with dental care in spite of your jaw pain. TMJ is not pleasant, but rotten teeth and bleeding gums will just make matters worse.