Tips for Preventing a TMJ Flare-up

The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the skull. This connection occurs just beneath the ears on either side of the head. Each of these complex joints moves back and forth, up and down, and from side to side. The nearly constant use of this joint makes it is easy to see why temporomandibular disorders (TMD) develop. Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ) is one of these disorders.

What is TMJ?

This syndrome causes an individual to experience an array of bothersome symptoms, including pain. Knowing what triggers a TMJ flare up and then avoiding those triggers can help an individual prevent flare-ups of the temporomandibular joint.

The Importance of Attaining the Proper Diagnosis

Sometimes, temporomandibular disorders are difficult to diagnose because the symptoms a patient experiences mimic those associated with other conditions. To ensure a patient receives the most relevant treatment, attaining the proper diagnosis is essential. The experienced Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons at Heritage Oral Surgery and Implant Centers can quickly recognize the signs and symptoms that indicate a patient has a temporomandibular disorder.

Symptoms of a TMD can include:

  • Intense headaches – characteristics of these headaches include a piercing pain, throbbing or a constant ache.
  • Pain in the jaw with or without temporomandibular joint pain – this pain can range from mild to severe, be continuous or just come and go.
  • Ear pain – can range from a dull ache to an intense, searing pain.
  • Jaw popping or clicking – these symptoms typically occur while chewing, talking or opening the mouth.
  • Tinnitus – ringing in the ears.
  • Lockjaw – this problem occurs when the temporomandibular joints become misaligned. The individual is unable to open his or her mouth until the joints are properly realigned.
  • Visible inflammation – seen in the temporomandibular joint that is affected.

A flare-up can occur without warning, however, seeking care from an experienced Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and using the tips below can reduce the duration and intensity of a flare-up, or prevent them altogether.

6 Tips for Preventing a TMJ Flare Up

  1. Reduce Stress Levels

Stress can lead to the grinding or clenching of teeth. This additional pressure strains the facial muscles and the temporomandibular joints, causing irritation. Meditation and yoga are great ways to reduce stress.

  1. Stop Eating Foods that Are Chewy, Gummy or Hard

Eating hard, chewy or gummy candy as well as bagels, whole apples and nuts can cause a flare-up.

  1. Quit Overworking the Neck Muscles

The muscles responsible for controlling breathing, talking, biting, chewing and head posture work in conjunction with the muscles in the neck. If the neck muscles are tired and strained, other muscles must be used, which leads to an imbalance. This imbalance triggers the pain associated with TMJ.

  1. Avoid Becoming Dehydrated

Dehydration decreases the effectiveness of the body’s natural joint lubrication, which aggravates the joint and can lead to a TMJ flare-up. Avoiding caffeine, drinking plenty of water and eating foods with a high-water content (e.g., cucumbers, cantaloupe, tomatoes, etc.,) can help an individual remain well hydrated.

  1. Eat Well and Take a Daily Vitamin

If an individual’s Vitamin D level is deficient, he or she may experience muscle pain in the jaw.

  1. Use a Firm Pillow and Sleep on Your Back

By sleeping on the back with a pillow that offers an adequate amount of support for your head and neck, there is no pressure being placed on the jaw.

If you are experiencing pain in your jaw, or would like to learn more about the treatments for TMD, contact one of the Heritage Oral Surgery and Implant Centers below to schedule an appointment.

The Heritage Oral Surgery and Implant Centers are in:

  • Valencia – Tel: 661-253-3500, 27450 Tourney Road, Suite 160.
  • West Valley/Canoga Park – Tel: 818-703-8200, 22142 Sherman Way, Suite 201.
  • Palmdale – Tel: 661-538-1400, 843 Auto Center Drive, Suite B.


What is TMJ?

The jaw muscles and joints that allow us to open and close our mouths are referred to as the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These joints are located on each side of the face and control the mandible (i.e., lower jaw) as it moves backward, forward and side to side, the temporomandibular joints work together whenever we speak, chew or swallow. In addition, these are the joints that connect the jaw to the skull.

The Inner Workings of the Temporomandibular Joints

Each temporomandibular joint consists of a ball and socket joint with a shock-absorbing disc in between: this disc essentially cushions the load placed on the joint, allowing us to comfortably open, close, glide and rotate our jaw.

The bones that interact with these joints are covered with cartilage. The movement remains smooth due to the shock-absorbing disc. However, any issue that affects the ability of the temporomandibular joints’ complex system of ligaments, muscles, bones and discs to work together could lead to a painful condition referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) or temporomandibular joint syndrome, or, simply, TMJ.

Common symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Aching in and around the ear.
  • Jaw tenderness or pain.
  • Facial pain.
  • Difficulty chewing.
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (one or both joints).
  • Pain while chewing.
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth.

Treating TMJ

For the most part, the symptoms associated with this condition are temporary. The pain and discomfort experienced can be addressed using nonsurgical treatments or self-managed care. Surgical intervention is always the last resort: Only being considered after conservative measures fail.

What Causes TMJ?

Sometimes, the reason a person develops temporomandibular joint disorder is difficult to determine because pain can result due to a variety of factors, including cartilage damage caused by arthritis, a jaw injury or even genetic issues like incorrect tooth and jaw alignment. People who clench their teeth regularly or who have bruxism, a condition in which someone subconsciously grinds his or her teeth while asleep, are at a higher risk of developing TMJ; however, there are people who clench their teeth or have bruxism and never develop temporomandibular joint disorders.

Is It Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or Something Else?

A TMJ disorder typically causes clicking sounds and irritating sensations when opening the mouth or while chewing. If you are not experiencing any limitation of movement or clicking in your jaw, then you most likely do not have TMJ.

When to Seek Treatment

If you cannot open or close your jaw all the way, or if you are experiencing persistent tenderness or pain in your jaw, contact the Heritage Oral Surgery and Implant Center location that is the most convenient for you today. We can help determine what is causing your pain. Once we have a diagnosis, your personalized treatment plan will be created. We have offices located in Valencia, Palmdale and West Valley, California.