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How to Ease TMJ Pain Until You Get to the Dentist’s Office

a man putting a hand to his head

If you’re fortunate, you probably aren’t even aware of your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) on a daily basis. Your TMJ, located just underneath each ear, works every time you speak, every time you yawn, every time you chew – pretty well any time your mouth is moving. That’s why, when you develop a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), you notice right away. Suddenly, activities that were easy become nearly impossible. Pain, clicking or grating noises, locked joints, and even headaches develop as a direct result of your TMD.

The good news is that TMJ pain may be diagnosed and treated at your local dentist office in Barrie. However, until you can get in for your appointment, you may be feeling stuck and in pain. Don’t resign yourself to days of discomfort – there are plenty of things you can do to help manage your pain until your dentist can take a look.

Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and pain relievers can help make the pain manageable until you’re able to see your dentist. Muscle relaxants might also make things a bit easier until your TMJ discomfort can be diagnosed and addressed.

Adopt a Soft-Food Diet

We usually recommend against soft food diets, since they’re usually more likely to leave food residue on your teeth (which, if not properly cleaned off, can encourage the production of tartar). However, if you can barely open your mouth, much less chew, then making do with soup or pudding might be your best bet for the interim.

Water Picks or Sonic Brushes

If you can’t open your mouth to eat, chances are good that you aren’t able to get in there and properly floss, either. Using a sonic toothbrush helps reduce the amount of actual maneuvering your jaw has to do (and there’s evidence it provides a superior clean). Similarly, a water flosser will help do the job of regular floss without requiring you to bare your teeth quite as widely.

Hot & Cool Compresses

As with any other kind of joint pain, you might find that your TMJ pain becomes more bearable after being treated with a warm or cool compress. If you’re leaning towards heat, go for warm & damp, like a soaked washcloth (just be careful that the heat isn’t high enough to burn you when applied). If you prefer cold, go for ice wrapped in some kind of protective covering (like a washcloth or towel) to prevent it from directly touching your skin. Apply your compress for 15-minute stretches before removing it to give your skin a chance to recover.

Get a Mouth Guard for Sleeping

One of the most frequent causes of TMJ pain is nocturnal teeth grinding or clenching. A rubber mouth guard, such as the kind used in contact sports, will help protect your teeth and help prevent your jaw from becoming more irritated as you sleep. Your dentist will be able to recommend a mouth guard to help realign your jaw if they feel the need is present.


If left untreated, prolonged TMDs can cause or exacerbate other oral health issues, so don’t put off finding a good dentist office. Barrie is home to Dr. Elston Wong Dentistry, a trusted and reliable name throughout Simcoe county. If you’re dealing with TMJ pain, call our office at (705) 721-1143 and we’ll determine if there’s a dental cause.

You can also contact us online through our website or by instant chat.

Dr. Elston Wong Portrait

About Dr. Elston Wong

Dr. Elston Wong completed his dental degree at The University of Toronto in 1999 before arriving in Barrie in 2002. After graduating, he continued to learn everything he could about dentistry. Now he has taken the time to share important information for anyone to read.

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