TMJ (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction) results in soreness and lack of mobility in the jaw. Although most people learn to manage the pain during their daily life, a trip to the dentist for even a routine cleaning can be a painful, if not nearly impossible, endeavor. Fortunately, you can still get routine cleanings and dental work done with the help of the tips and strategies below.
Tip #1: Make Sure Everyone Is Aware
When booking the appointment, let the receptionist know that you suffer from TMJ. Often, TMJ patients are allotted more time in the dental chair so that they can have rest breaks. You also need to remind the hygienist, Xray tech, dentist, and any other professional that works on your mouth when they come in to see you. Although the TMJ is likely on your chart, a polite reminder ensures that it isn't overlooked.
Tip #2: Be Open to Multiple Appointments
If you need any type of extensive work done, such as a deep periodontal cleaning, multiple appointments may be the key to avoiding crippling pain. Your dentist may use the first appointment as a consultation, where they will realistically assess the severity of your TMJ and formulate a treatment plan. Sometimes spreading something as simple as a cleaning over two appointments is enough to avoid excessive wear on the jaw.
Tip #3: Ask for Rest Breaks
As a general rule, most dentists working on TMJ patients will provide regular rest breaks so that you can close or stretch the jaw to relieve discomfort. It is also important to work out a signal that you can use with your dentist when you need a break. Don't be tempted to ignore the need for a break simply to speed up the process – this usually causes more pain than it is worth.
Tip #4: Take a Pain Killer
In many cases you can take a mild over-the-counter painkiller before your visit, but ask your dentist first. Some painkillers may be contraindicated because they will cause excessive bleeding. If you can take a mild pain killer, plan to dose yourself about 30 minutes before work begins so it is in your system by the time you need it.
Tip #5: Take Advantage of In-Office Help
Your dentist may give you several pain prevention options. For example, your dentist may prescribe a muscle relaxer to be taken before your visit, or they may advise the use of nitrous oxide during the procedure. If your TMJ pain is severe or preventing the dentist from completing necessary dental work, they may advise doing the work under sedation, either partial or full. By working with your dentist, you can get the dental care you need without aggravating your TMJ.
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