For many patients around the country, going to the dentist right now is an option. That’s because many dental clinics have been put on mandatory lockdown and are not accepting appointments due to the COVID-19 epidemic. As a result, oral hygiene is taking a big hit. But while some patients probably welcome the excuse to not get a cleaning (after all, approximately 70 percent of people have some degree of dental phobia), there is a segment of the population for whom dental visits are essential. Those patients suffer from a condition called temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ dysfunction for short.
Dr. Kelley Mingus treats TMJ dysfunction in his Bend, Oregon, clinic. He says for patients who simply cannot be seen by their TMJD specialist, the mandatory quarantine orders across the country can be trying.
“Patients suffering from TMJ pain are unable to get the relief they need when their practitioner has been ordered to stay closed,” says Mingus.
Thankfully, Mingus says there’s also a solution. There are at-home remedies patients can try to help ease some of the TMJ dysfunction pain they are experiencing.
“While physical therapy offices may be closed in some communities, there are definitely exercises you can do at home to help ease the pain in your jaw,” he says.
Mingus says you can try these exercises to help alleviate some of the discomfort of TMJ dysfunction:
- Stand flush with the wall and pull your chin inward
- Apply pressure to an open jaw with your thumb and then grip your jaw between your fingers with your mouth closed
- Myofascial massage
Call your doctor or dentist before beginning any treatment program at home. According to Mingus, most dental practices will have an answering service in place and can get your call through to a dentist in an emergency.
“We are living in unprecedented times, but that doesn’t mean we should have to suffer through these ailments,” he says. “Every little bit of intervention we can do at home can potentially help bring a little more comfort.”
Mingus says that if the pain does not subside, warm compresses and over-the-counter pain medication may also help, but he recommends patients make an appointment to be seen by their TMJ dysfunction specialist as soon as the quarantine is lifted in their area.
“Even if you are a new patient, be seen by a dentist who specializes in TMJ dysfunction pain,” Mingus says. “There are treatment options that can help eliminate this pain for good. There is no need to prolong suffering if you don’t have to.”