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How Long Does a TMJ Flare Up Last? And What Causes It?

Posted on June 27th, 2022 by

If you’re having a TMJ flare-up, you’re likely experiencing jaw pain, trouble opening and closing your mouth, and clicking or popping.

While TMJ symptoms can be unpleasant, the good news is that flare-ups are temporary. And with the right dental treatment, you can reduce flare-ups or prevent them altogether.

Here’s everything you need to know about TMJ flare-ups and how to prevent them.

What Causes TMJ to Flare Up?

TMJ mainly affects the jaw, meaning flare-ups usually stem from pressure on the jaw itself. This pressure is most commonly caused by stress—many people unknowingly clench their jaws and grind their teeth. However, there are a variety of other factors that can put a strain on your jaw and cause a flare-up.

Here’s a full list of the most common symptoms to watch out for:

  1. Stress

Stress can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth, even if you aren’t aware of it. This added stress on your jaw can cause pain and create jaw alignment issues.

  1. Dehydration

Proper hydration supports a number of important bodily functions. When it comes to your jaw, hydration supports lubrication of the jaw joint. In turn, dehydration can exasperate your TMJ symptoms.

  1. Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is an important vitamin that supports healthy hormone regulation in the body. When the vitamin D supply in your body is depleted, your joints can be affected, and you may suffer TMJ flare-ups.

  1. Eating Hard or Chewy foods

Eating hard or crunchy foods can also trigger a TMJ flare-up. Some of the most common trigger foods include raw vegetables, apples, nuts, bagels, and red meat.

  1. Night-Time Teeth Grinding

Night-time teeth grinding, also known as sleep bruxism, is a common condition that can happen without you even realizing it. Over time, this behavior can cause jaw pain, headaches, and other symptoms of TMJ.

  1. Jaw Injuries

A recent jaw injury or trauma to your jaw muscles can induce a TMJ flare-up. It’s important to have any injuries treated by a doctor as soon as possible to prevent problems from getting worse.

  1. Hormonal Fluctuations

High estrogen levels have been associated with increased pain and TMJ symptoms. While researchers don’t fully understand this link yet, it’s believed that hormonal fluctuations can affect the way people process pain, including the pain associated with TMJ.

  1. Poor Posture

Poor posture can upset the balance between your back, neck, and jaw. This misalignment can put pressure on your jaw joints, causing pain, popping, cracking, and muscle spasms.

  1. Unknown

Unfortunately, in some cases, it is not possible to link TMJ flare-ups back to any specific cause. In these cases, it’s important to work with your dentist to create a treatment plan to prevent future symptoms.

TMJ Flare-Up Symptoms

A TMJ flare-up refers to new symptoms that appear suddenly or symptoms that get worse temporarily. TMJ can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms including:

  • Headaches
  • Pain around the jaw joint
  • General jaw pain
  • Earaches
  • Tinnitus (ringing ears)
  • Popping or clicking noises when opening or closing your mouth
  • Swelling
  • Lockjaw
  • Facial muscle spasms
  • Limited jaw mobility

How Long Do TMJ Flare Ups Last?

The length of a TMJ flare-up will largely depend on the individual and the cause of their flare-up. In most cases, a TMJ flare-up will last between a few hours and a few days. In some cases, you may have a TMJ flare-up for weeks at a time.

How to Treat a TMJ Flare Up

At Home

At home, you can apply heat or ice to your face for 20 minutes each hour to reduce pain and swelling. You can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and gently massage the area to promote healing.

In the long run, focus on reducing your stress whenever possible. Consider exercising more, taking more breaks from work, or spending more time with family and friends. It can also help to remove hard or crunchy foods from your diet.

At the Dentist

Don’t wait to seek treatment for TMJ pain. Professional diagnosis and treatment is crucial. There are a variety of treatment options for TMJ including stress management, custom-fit mouth guards, Botox, massage, and more.

Schedule a Consultation

If you’re suffering from TMD symptoms, reach out to the team at Art of Modern Dentistry. Our experienced dentists are equipped to help patients with TMJ find effective, long-lasting treatment. We’re the most trusted TMJ specialists in Chicago!

Call us today at 773-935-3600 to schedule a consultation.

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