Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ, TMJD, or TMD) is a condition that affects the muscles of the jaw, causing extreme pain when chewing and talking, oftentimes becoming debilitating. TMJ affects 20-30% of the adult population, making it a serious issue for a lot of people. In this article, we will explore what TMJ is, some alternative treatments, and look into the best essential oils for TMJ relief.
What is TMJ or TMD?
The temporomandibular joints are the joints that connect our mandible or lower jaw to the skull. What is referred to as TMJ, TMJD, or TMD is the pain that comes along with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (for the rest of this article, we are simply going to be referring to the dysfunction as TMJ).
TMJ is usually associated with excruciating pain and limited movement of the lower jaw., tenderness, stiffness, and swelling of the area around and near the ears. Those with TMJ also experience intermittent locking of the jaw, and clicking or popping noises when moving the jaw.
What causes TMJ/TMD?
Much like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), there is much mystery surrounding TMJ as to what exactly causes the dysfunction in the first place. Medical and scientific experts can only make certain correlations of the instances where TMJ is among a group of symptoms occurring to characterize a certain disease.
There are a number of factors that have been found to make one have a predisposition to developing TMJ, such as genetic and hormonal factors. TMJ has also been suggested to be associated with those who have chronic back pain and those who have problems with their spine and/or nervous system.
Another dominant and widespread factor of interest for those who develop TMJ is mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Chronic emotional stress, anxiety, and depression contribute to higher jaw muscle activity like clenching as well as excessive grinding of teeth, making it a risk factor to develop TMJ. These factors are what drove experts to the conclusion that TMJ might have links to neurology and psychosocial wellbeing.
Prevention and Treatment
There are several methods of preventing the jaw from engaging and therefore reduce the risk of feeling pain.
Dentists usually prescribe the use of occlusal splint or termed bite plates to treat TMJ. These are mouthpiece-like acrylic oral braces that are usually recommended to be worn at night or when engaging in activity where you don’t have to talk or eat much.
Medications like pain-killers are usually prescribed along with physiotherapy.
An occlusal adjustment is a rather controversial method that involves grinding down the teeth to allow the lower and upper jaw to be adjusted in a way where the jaw may be in a position that doesn’t cause much pain.
Acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments are considered alternative methods to treat TMJ and some claim to show favorable results in these.
You might also try massaging the face and neck muscles with a technique known as gua sha.
Do Essential Oils Help in Treating TMJ/TMD?
Essential oils are also a great way to help manage the painful symptoms of TMJ. It is important to note that essential oils merely help in pain relief and soothing the affected area but do not treat TMJ as a disorder.
Best Essential Oils for TMJ/TMD relief
Oils that are anti-inflammatory like rosemary, roman chamomile, lavender and marjoram help with the swelling and tenderness that come with TMJ. Rosemary and marjoram are strong oils that are great in treating neuromuscular and musculoskeletal pains, and they can help provide relief against headaches and migraines.
Lavender is perhaps the best oil to use for a holistic treatment of the symptoms of TMJ. Aside from being an anti-inflammatory, its soothing qualities and scent can also aid in managing the neurological aspects of TMJ by helping the brain calm down from anxieties.
Using Essential Oils for TMJ
The most effective way to use essential oils for TMJ relief is by applying topically as a salve or lotion on to the affected area. To ensure the best results, we highly recommend that you use high quality oils.
Always dilute essential oils with carrier oils when applying to the skin to avoid further pain and discomfort and do a patch test first on any non-affected areas of your body and observe for at least 30 minutes. Once you show any kind of adverse reactions, discontinue using the essential oil blend immediately.
Essential Oil Blend for TMJ Relief
Mix 3-5 drops of the essential oil of your choice to an ounce of carrier oil. You can have one of multiple oils for your recipe and you can switch it up according to what you observe works the best for you. Apply on the affected area and gently massage. You can do this several times throughout the day.
Applying this essential oil blend before you sleep as you also put on mouth splints also does wonders, as oils like lavender can help you sleep better.
You can also put the essential oil blend in a small roller bottle so you can use this anytime and anywhere you need.
Diffusing Oils for TMJ Relief
Diffusing is another great way to use essential oils to manage TMJ symptoms. Simply put 3-5 drops of your chosen oil for every 100mL of water in a diffuser and relax and wind down from the stresses of the jaw pains.
TMJ is a persistent problem for many people, and while this affects very small joints and bones in your jaw, it can cause unbearable and excruciating pain.
Luckily, there are ways to manage the pain that comes with TMJ, including using essential oils. There is still much to know about TMJ and its complicated causes. Before you try to explore alternative options, your first course of action should always be to seek help and advice from a medical professional to avoid further complications of your case.