How Long Do TMJ Flare-Ups Last? And What Causes Them?

If you have TMJ, also known as Temporomandibular Disorder or TMD, you understand how painful and tiring a flare-up can be. Besides having jaw pain and discomfort, you may experience headaches, lockjaw, and trouble eating certain foods.

The good news is that TMJ flare-ups typically don’t last very long, and there are steps you can take to reduce future symptoms

We’ve put together this blog post with everything you need to know about TMJ and TMD symptoms.

TMJ Symptoms

When you have a TMJ flare-up, you may experience a wide range of symptoms, including:

How Long Does a TMJ Flare-Up Last?

How long your TMJ flare-up lasts will entirely depend on what triggered the episode as well as your past history with TMJ. Generally, you can expect a TMJ flare-up to last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. In rare cases, TMJ flare-ups can last for several weeks.

If your TMJ symptoms don’t resolve within this timeframe, talk to your orthodontist about possible treatment options.

What Causes TMJ Flare-Ups?

Surprisingly, most TMJ flare-ups are triggered by stress. When you’re feeling tense, you may unknowingly clench your jaw slightly or grind your teeth. This can even occur while you are sleeping, so you may be totally unaware it’s happening.

While stress is the most common cause of TMJ flare-ups, they can also be caused by a variety of other factors. Below, you’ll find an extensive list of everything that can trigger symptoms.


When you’re stressed, you may unknowingly put more pressure on your jaw joints by clenching or tightening your jaw. This pressure often leads to TMJ pain and alignment problems.


Hydration is crucial for keeping your jaw joints lubricated. Thus, not drinking enough water can make your TMJ symptoms worse.

Hard, Crunchy, or Chewy Foods

Biting down on something hard or crunchy can easily trigger a TMJ flare-up. Some of the most common trigger foods include steak, bagels, raw vegetables, nuts, and hard candy.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding (sleep bruxism) is a common condition that happens at night, and it is especially common for individuals who experience high levels of stress. Without treatment, night-time teeth grinding can cause common symptoms of TMJ like headaches, pain, and lockjaw.

Poor Posture

Poor posture can put unnecessary pressure on the joints in your jaw, leading to pain, lockjaw, and other TMJ flare-up symptoms.

Injury to the Jaw

Jaw injuries are one of the most common causes of TMJ flare-ups. If you’ve suffered a jaw injury, be sure to see your orthodontist to prevent your symptoms from getting any worse.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is important for the body and can support healthy joint functioning. For this reason, when your vitamin D supply is depleted, you may notice you suffer more TMJ flare-ups.


Sometimes, it is difficult to find any reason behind your TMJ flare-up. In these cases, working with your orthodontist to come up with a plan for treatment is usually the best course of action.

How to Treat TMJ Flare-Ups at Home

You can treat your TMJ flare-up at home by applying a hot or cold pack to your face to minimize pain and swelling. Taking an OTC anti-inflammatory, like Advil or Tylenol, can also help ease your pain. You may also want to limit your intake of certain trigger foods, including anything that’s hard or crunchy.

Because stress plays such a significant role in TMJ, it’s also important to reduce your stress levels as much as possible. You might try exercising more often, taking more breaks at work, and finding time in each day to relax fully. Working with a psychologist or counselor can also help you learn more effective ways to manage stress.

While there are many forms of treatment you can seek on your own, it’s important to visit your orthodontist for professional diagnosis and treatment. If you have chronic TMJ, there are several types of treatment available to you, including Botox, mouth guards, and physical therapy.

Schedule a TMJ Appointment

If you’re suffering from TMJ flare-ups, don’t wait to seek treatment. The orthodontists at Brooklyn Orthodontics have years of experience helping patients with TMJ relieve their symptoms. We’re the most trusted TMJ specialists in Brooklyn and the surrounding boroughs.

Reach out to our team today to schedule an appointment.

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