woman holding her jaw from TMJ pain

People with a chronic TMJ condition can experience ongoing symptoms that include episodes of sharp and/or dull pain that seems to last forever. Fortunately, most people’s symptoms tend to be mild and don’t last all that long. For others, though, the severe pain and discomfort can be draining, preventing them from enjoying life.

In this article we’ll discuss how long you can expect a TMJ flare up to last, when it’s a cause for concern, and what treatment options are available.

What is TMJ Dysfunction?

TMJ, aka temporomandibular disorder, refers to a range of conditions that affect your TM joints, facial nerves, and jaw muscles. The condition often occurs when the jaw twists during opening, closing or side-to-side movements. Common symptoms include:

  • Tenderness of the jaw and jaw muscles
  • Pain in or around one or both ears
  • Jaw pain that’s more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon
  • Head and neck aches
  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
  • Clicking or popping noises when opening your mouth
  • Sensitive teeth that can’t be explained by another dental condition

While the vast majority of people who experience TMJ pain improve once it’s diagnosed and treated, repeated flare ups can and do occur.

TMJ Flareups

Flare ups are either new symptoms of your TMJ disorder or worsening of the existing symptoms listed above. They can affect your quality of life and make speaking, eating, yawning, and sleeping difficult.

It’s not always clear what causes a TMJ flare up but the biggest factors for serious cases include:

  • Injury or trauma
  • Erosion in the jaw joint or disc
  • Deterioration from arthritis

Stress, posture, hormone levels, vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, and chewing hard food can also play a role.

How long a flare up last varies from person to person, but it’s typically anywhere from a couple hours to several days. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can often minimize how long a flare up endures.

What You Can Do

To find relief from pain and discomfort, try one or more of these steps:

  • Apply ice for 20 minutes to the area that is painful and/or swelling. If ice makes your condition worse, try heat instead.
  • Change your diet to include softer texture foods such as scrambled eggs, yogurt, and other foods that don’t require a lot of chewing.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications can provide much needed relief.
  • Find ways to reduce stress which can help relax your jaw.

Visit Your Dentist

The best way to tackle a TMJ flare up is to find the underlying cause so it can be properly treated. Your dentist can help you identify what might be triggering flare ups and suggest additional ways you can find relief. For example, if bruxism (teeth grinding) is causing your TMJ pain, you can be fitted with a mouth guard. In rare cases, surgery is required to correct misalignment of the jawbone.

Kanehl Dental offers advanced therapies designed to help relieve your TMJ pain. To discuss your treatment options or to schedule an oral checkup, contact us today.