Managing Symptoms at Home
If your visit to the doctor didn’t reveal any jaw injuries that need immediate treatment, then you can try managing your symptoms at home. Some common symptoms after jaw trauma include:
- A bite that feels off
- Difficulty chewing
- Soreness in the muscles and joint
- Limited jaw opening
- Neck pain
These symptoms may appear immediately after your accident or develop days, weeks, or even months later.
Common strategies for managing these symptoms include:
- Relaxing your jaw
- Applying heat and ice
- Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications
For many people, these home care solutions might be all you need to treat your jaw injury.
Relaxing Your Jaw
Jaw relaxation can be challenging because of everything your jaw does for you daily. You may be aware of your jaw when you bite, chew, or speak, but your jaw also works when you swallow, breathe, yawn, or just stand upright.
Switch to a soft food diet temporarily. This isn’t a liquid diet–you can still eat solid foods but try to make them soft. This includes yogurt, eggs, mashed potatoes, soups, and others. It’s easy to get a varied and nutritious soft food diet. If you eat foods that require chewing, cut them into small pieces.
Remember that your jaw helps support your head, so it can help your jaw to spend more time with your head supported. Sit in chairs with good headrests, and always try to maintain good posture when sitting or standing.
Yawns can strain your jaw, so try to keep from yawning too wide. If you feel you will yawn, put your fist below your jaw to keep it from opening too wide.
Apply Heat and Ice
Applying heat and ice packs can help to control pain and discomfort from jaw injuries. They can also help speed recovery.
Ice packs are good for general pain relief and can help control inflammation–swelling–that leads to further discomfort and poor jaw function. Resist the temptation to apply ice packs directly to the skin. Put a cloth between the ice and your skin. Apply ice over short periods, about 10 to 20 minutes.
If you have muscle pains, moist heat can also help relieve pain and improve function. You can use a damp, warm towel or bath if you can immerse your jaw joints comfortably. Some people also get good results with a rice sock.
OTC medications can also help manage your jaw injury symptoms. However, it’s important to remember that these medications have risks.
Unless otherwise instructed by a doctor, never exceed the recommended dosage on the label. Also, understand which medications are safe to use together. For example, you can alternate acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). However, take care that you aren’t taking two medications that contain acetaminophen, and avoid alternating ibuprofen with another NSAID like naproxen (Aleve).
If you are having trouble controlling your symptoms with OTC medications, don’t increase your dosage or frequency. Instead, seek professional care.