Experiencing jaw pain can result from many activities like chewing a tough piece of meat or tensing up during stressful times. However, if you are struggling with jaw pain on a consistent and regular basis, it may be more serious. The impact of jaw discomfort can become debilitating if left untreated.
If you have pain in your jaw that doesn't go away, has gotten worse over time, you may be suffering from TMJ.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder?
TMJ is the acronym for the temporomandibular joint connecting your jaw bone to the temporal bones on both sides of your head. Your TMJ is what allows you to open and close your mouth. Doctors and dentists often use the term TMJ to describe a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) that causes pain in the joint and muscle surrounding the jaw. The term TMD covers other pain associated with the nerves, cartilage, or joint fluid around the face and jaw.
Common Causes of TMJ
TMJ is estimated to affect about 25% of the population, with the majority being women between 20 and 40. Teeth grinding and jaw changing are believed to be the leading cause behind TMJ, or by a combination of factors.
Common causes of TMJ include:
- Damage to the joint's cartilage caused by arthritis
- If the joint is damaged by an impact or other forced trauma to the jaw
- If the disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
- Being diagnosed with various types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Long-term (chronic) teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw
- Certain connective tissue diseases that cause issues that affect the temporomandibular joint
Symptoms and Warning Signs
TMJ's signs and symptoms can vary from person to person; however, most are suffering from TMJ experience:
- A popping or clicking sound when opening and closing the mouth
- Frequent tension headaches or migraines
- Sinus pain
- Arthritis around the TMJ
- Worn, cracked, or broken teeth
- Joints that lock into place, or are painful to close
- A grating sensation when chewing
Managing TMJ Symptoms at Home
Home treatments for TMJ or TMD include many of the same treatments and techniques used by dentists, including regular jaw and neck stretching combined with pain relievers.
Manage symptoms of TMJ at home by:
- Avoiding foods that require a lot of chewing, such as gum and tough meats.
- Relax your jaw muscles with deep breathing exercises to help relieve some of the tension in your jaw.
- Incorporate simple jaw exercises to help strengthen and stretch the muscles.
When To See a Dentist For Treatment
Discomfort from TMJ shouldn't be ignored, especially if it's persistent and makes simple things such as eating, drinking, or talking more difficult. When you see your dentist for TMJ pain, we will examine your mouth and check the muscles in your face, jaw, and neck. Additionally, we will look along the inside of your mouth for teeth grinding and jaw clenching. The range of motion of your jaw will also be examined, and the distance you can open or close your mouth will be measured.
Once diagnosed, most patients with TMJ are treated with medications such as ibuprofen and muscle relaxers, a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding, and neck and jaw stretching exercises. In certain instances, we may recommend a treatment plan that includes resting the jaw and a soft-food diet to help rest the jaw. Determining your triggers for your pain is often a critical piece in helping you find relief from jaw pain.
In extreme cases, surgery ranging from minimally invasive to open-joint surgery to replace the TMJ may be necessary.
If you're experiencing chronic jaw pain or any other TMJ symptoms listed above, don't hesitate to contact Elite Dental & Denture PC today.