The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of your ears. This joint allows you to move your jaw, so you can talk, chew and yawn. A TMJ disorder means that the hinge connecting the upper and lower jaw isn’t working properly.
Who does it happen to?
TMJ disorders can happen to anyone, though it often happens more frequently in women than men. For many people, symptoms seem to start without obvious reason. Common risk factors of TMJ disorders include:
- Injury to the teeth or jaw
- Misalignment of the teeth or jaw
- Teeth grinding
- Poor posture
- Gum chewing
Why does it happen?
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIH), for most jaw joint and muscle problems, the cause is not clear. Symptoms will fluctuate in intensity over time, but what causes these changes is unknown. Most people have relatively mild forms of the disorder, and their symptoms improve significantly or disappear spontaneously within weeks or months. For others, the condition causes long-term, persistent and debilitating pain.
How do you know you have it?
Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. Your dentist can help you make a proper diagnosis, but some of the most common TMJ disorder symptoms include:
- Locked jaw
- Stiff or sore jaw and neck muscles
- Headaches, earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
- A clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth
- Pain brought on by chewing, yawning or opening the mouth widely
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
Consult your doctor to rule out other known causes of pain. Facial pain can be a symptom of many conditions, such as sinus or ear infections, various types of headaches, and facial neuralgias (nerve-related facial pain). Ruling out these problems first helps in identifying TMJ disorders.
How to fix it?
Patients suffering from TMJ disorder can often find relief with home remedies, such as:
- Applying moist heat or ice packs to the joint
- Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Eating soft foods and avoiding chewing gum
- Avoiding extreme jaw movements
- Massage or gentle stretches to the jaw and neck
- Reducing stress that may cause you to clench your jaw
Your dentist can prescribe higher doses of NSAIDs if needed, but another great treatment option is a custom-made mouth guard. We offer a number of mouth guards and dental appliances, which require two appointments with your Madison Family Dental dentist. In extreme cases, TMJ disorder may require surgery.
Please request an appointment online for a dental treatment consultation to explore TMJ disorder options with one of our dental professionals.