Smile Secrets: Ooh, My Aching Jaw!

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Are you one of the ten million Americans who suffer from TMJ, which stands for Temporo-Mandibular Joint dysfunction and refers to what could be called simply a pain in the jaw?TMJ causes a variety of symptoms including headaches, neck, shoulder, back and face pain, being unable to open the mouth comfortably, clicking sounds in the jaw joint and facial swelling.

Fortunately, sometimes TMJ just goes away by itself but sometimes it's severe enough to require the wearing of a dental appliance.But most sufferers find their TMJ is not debilitating, just uncomfortable.

TJM can be brought about by malocclusion or a bad bite, but the most frequent cause is often habitual teeth clenching.If this is the cause of your TMJ, two things will help diminish or even eradicate the condition.

First off, you must become aware of when you are clenching your teeth.For many, this is an unconscious habit and the first step to overcoming it is to notice when you are holding tension in your jaw.When you catch yourself clenching, relax your jaw and let your mouth hang open for a little while.This will help relax the jaw.

Another source of relief can be a myofascial TMJ massage.This is a specialized massage of the face, neck and shoulders using a specific Chinese acupressure technique and a combination of essential oils designed to relieve tensions and muscle spasms, release lactic acid (which can cause muscle pain), reduce swelling and relax the jaw area. The massage therapist works on specific pressure points and uses a proprietary blend of essential oils in four separate steps-including Lavender and Sweet Almond to stimulate circulation, Peppermint and Lime to encourage vasodilatation (widening of the blood vessels), Grape seed and Cypress to detoxify and Chamomile and Thyme to calm and soothe.A typical myofascial TMJ massage will last 45 minutes to an hour and the masseuse should show you some specific at-home techniques for you to do to yourself.

Of course, should the pain in your jaw be severe, immediately visit your dentist to determine the best course of action.For more information about myofascial TMJ massage, contact your dentist or massage therapist.

Dr. Gerald P. Curatolais a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to