Treating Mild TMJ Disorders

How to Treat Mild TMJ Pain

For some patients, TMJ pain can be a sign of something serious going on inside the jaw joint. However, for others, pain in your jaw joint is mild and should resolve itself over time. In either case, it’s important to make sure you treat your jaw pain early. Treating mild TMJ pain early can reduce and even prevent more damage from occurring.

The jaw joint is like the other joints in your body, like the knee, hip, or elbow. So, when you are experiencing pain in your TMJ you can treat it like you would treat an injury in your knee or elbow. Taking pain medication can help treat the pain of a mild TMJ disorder.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to treat mild TMJ disorders. We’ll look at how to manage your pain with rest, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter pain medication. You’ll also learn about other treatment options for mild TMJ disorders like mouthguards and orthodontics. By the end of this guide, you will walk away with a game plan to tackle your mild jaw joint pain. Of course, we encourage you to talk to your medical team in order to map out the best plan for your unique case.

The Importance of Rest for Treating Mild TMJ Pain

As we’ve already discussed, the TMJ is like the other joints in your body. And so when you injure it or experience pain, you need to treat it like your other joints. If you injure your knee, for example, most doctors will tell you to rest it. Resting your joint gives it a chance to heal. If you keep using your knee too much it will keep hurting. The same is true for your jaw joint. If you want it to heal, you need to rest it.

Now you may be wondering how you can rest your jaw joint. You have to eat, you have to speak. Not using your jaw joint is almost impossible. Luckily, there are ways to reduce the stress you put on the joint throughout the day. The best way is by going on a soft food diet.

A Soft Food Diet Can Help Treat Mild TMJ Pain

The biggest way to let your jaw joint rest is by going on a soft food diet for a while. Hard, crunchy food makes your jaw work harder, which in turn, puts pressure on your jaw. This leads to inflammation, which leads to pain.

You should avoid food like:

  • Sticky candy
  • Gum
  • Hard, crusty bread
  • Steak

You should eat food like

  • Eggs
  • Soup
  • Potatoes
  • Smoothies
  • Fish
  • Cooked vegetables

You should also include food that can reduce inflammation. Some studies show that certain foods can help reduce inflammation naturally. An anti-inflammatory diet combined with other treatments can help people who are dealing with chronic or severe TMJ disorders.

Foods that reduce inflammation include:

  • Ginger
  • Avocados
  • Berries

     Changning your diet for a while gives your jaw a break. Many find that going on a soft food diet is the key to treating mild TMJ pain. If you change your diet and your pain doesn’t go away, you should talk to your doctor.

    Managing Pain for Mild TMJ Disorders

    Pain in your jaw joint is usually associated with inflammation. You can treat inflammation in your TMJ with over-the-counter medications (OTC), like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. OTC medications can be helpful in treating mild TMJ pain. 

    If you’re experiencing jaw joint pain for the first time taking something like ibuprofen can help relieve pain. 

    Cold therapy and heat therapy is also helpful. Applying ice and heat to the joint can help decrease inflammation and pain. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and hold it against the joint for 15-20 minutes. Ice helps numb the pain and reduces inflammation. You can also use a heat pack for the same amount of time. Heat will loosen your stiff jaw joint and relax the sore muscles around the jaw.

    Treating Mild TMJ Pain with pain medication

    Orthodontics as a Non-Surgical Treatment for TMJ Disorders

    You can’t take a one-size fits all approach to TMJ disorders. It’s important to make sure treatment is based on a thorough diagnosis. Sometimes all you need is some pain medication and rest. But other times you may need something more to correct the issues in your jaw joint. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need surgery. Depending on your case, you may need to consider orthodontic work as a non-surgical treatment option for TMJ pain.

    If you have an extremely misaligned bite your jaw will have to work harder in order to make up for it. This extra effort will cause the joint to wear down over time. Misalignment can also push everything else out of its natural position, meaning your jaw joint will have to work in a way it’s not designed to.

    Orthodontics can help fix the issues with your bite, thus taking the pressure off of your jaw joint. However, it’s important to note that orthodontics is often one step in a treatment plan. Once you get your bite fixed, you will still need to address any damage that has been done to the joint itself. Ideally, your orthodontist should work together with the rest of your medical team to treat your TMJ disorder effectively.

    Mouthguards as a Treatment for Mild TMJ Disorders

    Mouthguards are a common non-surgical treatment option for TMJ disorders. 

    One of the most common causes of TMJ disorders is grinding your teeth, usually associated with stress and anxiety. Teeth grinding along with clenching the jaw puts extra pressure on the jaw joint. Mouthguards work by absorbing this pressure.

    One of the advantages of using a mouth guard is that, even if just for a short period of time, they will inevitably protect your teeth against damage. Since the mouthguards we offer are all custom-made, they will also be more comfortable and durable than some alternative options.

    Mouthguards Treat Mild TMJ Disorders

    Treating Mild TMJ Pain

    The truth is, most TMJ disorders can be treated without surgery if you catch them early enough. Mild TMJ pain will go away with rest, OTC pain medication, and ice/heat therapy. However, if your jaw joint pain doesn’t go away with these treatments you may need to look into other options like mouth guards and orthodontics. 

    Ultimately the right treatment option for you depends on your case. If your TMJ pain persists after trying to rest it for a few days make sure you talk to your doctor. Get a thorough diagnosis so you can get the treatment you really need.


    Nall, R. M. (2019, March 8). Understanding Jaw Pain: How to Find Relief. Healthline.

    Dental, L. T. M. (2021, August 27). Tips & Tricks for TMJ Pain Relief. Lone Tree Modern Dental & Orthodontics.

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