There’s a close link between a person’s dental health and the state of their temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Abscessed or decaying teeth can aggravate the TMJ, leading to more pain and inflammation. Infections in the teeth can spread to the jaw. And, having a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can lead to oral hygiene issues, as we’ll discuss below.
Brushing and Flossing
Many people take toothbrushing and flossing for granted as part of their daily routine. But for those with TMD, it can be a chore that’s often a dreaded part of their day. That’s because these basic oral hygiene habits require a person to open their mouth wide, stretch their jaw, and hold it there for several minutes. This can be agony for someone with TMD.
Fortunately, there are ways to get a clean and healthy mouth without unnecessary pain. We often talk with our patients about using a smaller toothbrush with soft bristles to make brushing easier. There’s no need to open the mouth extremely wide to get all the tooth surfaces. Keeping the jaw as relaxed as possible while brushing is still effective. In fact, it can help get the sides of those back molars that are so hard to reach. If brushing is still difficult, give yourself a break – literally. Take breaks while brushing to rest the jaw, and keep at it until you’ve reached all your teeth. Do this twice a day, minimum. If you’re still having trouble, use a heating pad on your jaw for 20 minutes before brushing to get the TMJ as relaxed as possible.
There’s no need to stick with old school floss if it’s not working for you. Wrapping floss around the fingers and getting it between the back teeth is extremely difficult for many people with TMD. Instead, check out the many flossing aides available on the market today. Flossers on small handles make back teeth much more accessible. Tiny toothbrush-like picks (called interdental brushes) can also be used to reach to the back without sticking your hands in your mouth.
Food Choices and Jaw Pain
Let’s face it. Some of the healthiest foods aren’t always jaw friendly. But people with TMD need to be eating healthy foods. This is because they not only promote good oral health, but can help fight inflammation in the body – a key to relieving TMD symptoms.
Fruits and vegetables can be jaw-friendly if you know how to work with them. Dust off your blender and make them into smoothies, which can be a delicious treat as a snack or breakfast. Throw in some greens with fresh fruit, and you’ll get a wide array of nutrients without the greens taste.
Cooked, grilled, or sauteed fruits and vegetables can also be a delicious choice. Use a splash of olive oil for flavor and anti inflammatory benefits. Or, throw your favorite fruit, such as pineapple, on a kabob and grill it for a tender, delicious dessert without added sugar.
At MedCenter TMJ, we want you to have a healthy mouth and jaw. We take a whole-body approach to treating TMD that will enable you to live your healthiest life. Contact us today!