How to Relieve TMJ Pain

Often jaw problems resolve on their own in several weeks to months. If you have recently experienced TMJ pain and/or dysfunction, you may find relief with some or all of the following therapies.
  • Moist Heat. Moist heat from a heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a warm, moist towel can improve function and reduce pain. Be careful to avoid burning yourself when using heat.
  • Ice. Ice packs can decrease inflammation and also numb pain and promote healing. Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin. Keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while you are using it. Do not use an ice pack for more than 10 - 15 minutes.
  • Soft Diet. Soft or blended foods allow the jaw to rest temporarily. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods. Do not stretch your mouth to accommodate such foods as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
  • Over the-Counter Analgesics. For many people with TMJ Disorders, short-term use of over-the-counter pain medicines or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, may provide temporary relief from jaw discomfort. When necessary, your dentist or doctor can prescribe stronger pain or anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, or antidepressants to help ease symptoms.
  • Jaw Exercises. Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility and healing. Your health care provider or a physical therapist can evaluate your condition and suggest appropriate exercises based on your individual needs.  A recent study found therapeutic jaw exercises bring earlier recovery of jaw function compared to splints! 
  • Relaxation Techniques. Relaxation and guided imagery can be helpful in dealing with the pain that accompanies TMJ dysfunction. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage, and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
  • Side Sleeping. Sleep on your side using pillow support between shoulder and neck.
  • Relax Facial Muscles. Make a concerted effort to relax your lips, and keep teeth apart.
  • Yawning. Use your fist to support your chin as you yawn to prevent damage to the joint and prevent your jaw from locking open.
In addition, avoid:
  • Jaw clenching.
  • Gum chewing.
  • Cradling the telephone, which may irritate jaw and neck muscles.
Be sure to discuss your jaw limitations with your doctor prior to surgery or a long dental appointment so he/she uses extreme caution. Anesthesia, often used during dental procedures, can affect mouth opening and damage the joint. If possible, avoid long dental appointments requiring an open mouth for more than 30 minutes. 

Remember, if your TMJ problems get worse with time, you should seek professional advice. However, first and foremost, educate yourself. Informed patients are better able to talk with health care providers, ask questions, and make knowledgeable decisions.

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Does Toothpaste Expire?

If you've run out of toothpaste and are tempted to grab your back-up travel tube, you may want to think again. Although toothpaste doesn't have a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated expiration, most toothpastes have an expiration date of eighteen months to two years.


Why Does Toothpaste Expire?

In order for any toothpaste to be given the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, it must meet stringent requirements for safety and effectiveness. A shelf-life is determined only by the effectiveness of the ingredients in the toothpaste, so there's no direct danger to your health in using a recently expired tube in a pinch. But, it does impact the effectiveness of preventing tooth decay and cavities if you use expired toothpaste over the long term. Fluoride in toothpaste can start to break down, decreasing your protection from bacteria-causing decay.

In fact, the ADA has spent many years in partnership with researchers and industry experts to develop a standard for the most effective dentifrice, or toothpastes and powders for cleaning your teeth. Brushing regularly with toothpaste with a low relative abrasivity (or relative dentin abrasivity, RDA) over the course of your lifetime can produce almost no wear to your enamel. Correct toothbrushing keeps it strong so that the soft dentin that houses your teeth's nerves is protected. It's important for all the ingredients to be fresh so your toothpaste works best.


Active Ingredients in Toothpaste

On the whole, toothpaste contains five active ingredients, including fluoride, an abrasive, a flavor or sweetening agent, a moisturizing agent, and a detergent, which are listed on the outside of the box. Saccharin or sorbitol gives the paste a sweet flavor, and sodium lauryl sulfate is a cleaning agent that works with the humectant to produce a smooth and foamy consistency to help clean your teeth.


When Does Toothpaste Expire?

Products typically have a two-year expiration date to ensure that the fluoride is at an optimal level of stability, as the ions in the fluoride are at their most effective within two years. After that time, the consistency in color and taste can change. Most pastes have a similar timeline, although some may have a shorter shelf-life. If you reach for a forgotten tube in your medicine cabinet, it's important to check the expiration date before using it. 

Tips for Keeping Toothpaste Fresh

You should always put the cap back on the toothpaste when you're finished with it, making sure there's no paste around the edges to attract any dirt or dust particles. Likewise, if you store it in the bathroom, it's best to keep your toothpaste in a closed cabinet, and that goes for your toothbrush, too. Though it may be unpleasant to think about, keeping any of your oral products out can expose them to bacteria from your toilet and the area in general. Finally, store your paste in a cooler environment. At hotter temperatures, ingredients can separate and start to liquify, becoming less effective.

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