Considerations When You Have TMD

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Most of us who have TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder) ask our doctors what restrictions we have to endure when wearing appliances in our mouths. One of the first things to consider is what to eat. There is actually a recipe book dedicated to just that purpose! Basically, if you are wearing ALF appliances, then you have the usual turbos on the lower teeth. When eating, the ALFs must be removed and therefore all that really touches will be the teeth with turbos. This is why you need to eat soft food – that is until the back teeth erupt. Remember: the purpose of those turbos is to allow the other teeth to erupt which will protect the integrity of the joint space for the articular discs.

Many people will find that the turbos do not really slow them down too much when eating, but they do need to eat softer foods than they normally might. In general, if your food is fork tender, then it should be easy enough to eat and swallow. Mastication (chewing) is good for your digestive system and muscles, yet when you have a TMJ problem, it is better to go softer for a while so the joints can heal.

Another frequent topic that arises is what exercise can be done when a person has a TMJ problem. The issue when a person has a slipped articular disc is the disc needs time to heal and try to recapture its proper position in the socket. If you work out too hard at the gym, this oftentimes causes a pull on the neck muscles (sternocleidomastoids). These muscles will pull on the slipped discs and make them worse. This is why a more carefully crafted exercise program for TMD cases has been developed.

One of the most important aspects of exercise for the TMJ patient is to make sure you do not lift above the height of the shoulder. A guide would be to not lift above the arm when it is stretched out horizontally. The reason for this is that the body will tend to ‘detach’ from this motion, and you will lose strength. Example: If you swam the ‘crawl’ as it is called, your arms would go above the shoulders, and you would pull the water toward you. In this action, you will stress the muscles in the neck and inadvertently pull on and potentially damage the discs in the joints. This is why over-the-shoulder lifting must be avoided.

There is a nicely modified program for TMD patients that involves being careful to protect the joints while still getting in a good workout. Some of these exercises involve using the elliptical machine. As an example, the Peloton is a quality elliptical type of workout. It is not recommended to use the treadmill because it is so much like running that the neck gets pounded. This can hurt the discs as well. There are several other modifications of exercise programs, but they need individual attention and modification per patient.