Have you ever been chewing a meal, chatting with a friend, or stretching and yawning in the morning – when you realize your jaw really, REALLY hurts? You’re not alone; an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from chronic facial pain caused by their temporomandibular joints (also known as TMJ).
These two joints are located on either side of your skull, and they use a complicated network of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones to connect your jaw to your head and help it function properly. When everything works normally, it’s an intricate and beautiful system – but if something goes wrong, you can be in for some serious pain.
Today, let’s discuss some of the problems plaguing folks with TMJ disorders and the solutions your dentist can provide.
What is TMJ?
Your temporomandibular joints are meant to support your jaw and keep it connected to the temporal bones in your skull. Thanks to these joints, you can talk, yawn, chew, and generally move your mouth without much issue.
However, when these joints become damaged or misaligned, they simply won’t work as effectively. Your jaw may twist during movements, which can make typical function very difficult or painful. People suffering from TMJ disorders can experience sharp pains or a clicking or popping sensation when chewing or talking. They may even have difficulty closing their mouths after opening too widely!
What Causes TMJ Pain?
There are many different factors that contribute to TMJ disorders – and in some cases, the cause isn’t clear. Most dentists agree that TMJ pain stems from a few common issues:
- A misaligned bite
- A former jaw injury (particularly dislocation)
- Chronic tooth grinding
While these are the most common reasons a person might develop TMJ, it is important to remember that they aren’t the only causes. For example, certain connective tissue diseases can erode the cartilage around the joints, making jaw movements more difficult.
So, how do you know if the pain you’re feeling is caused by TMJ? You need to examine the signs.
Signs of a TMJ Disorder
Firstly, if you are experiencing any facial pain, you should talk to your dentist right away. A thorough examination can help relieve you of any discomfort and prevent it from getting worse over time!
However, if you can’t see the dentist right away and you think you might have a TMJ disorder, look for the following symptoms:
- Pain or tenderness in your jaw (particularly around your ears)
- Difficulty chewing or talking
- Aching facial pain
- A “locking” or “clicking” that makes it hard to open or close your mouth
- Unexplained tooth sensitivity
These symptoms are very common among people with TMJ, and they might be able to explain the pain you’re feeling.
Getting Treatment for Your TMJ
Once you have your official TMJ diagnosis, what can you do about it? The answer depends on you! There are a variety of medications and treatments you can use to deal with TMJ pain, so you can choose the option that suits you best.
Some folks find that over-the-counter pain medication is enough to cope with their TMJ pain. Others opt for physical therapy exercises to strengthen their jaw muscles. Others still opt for counseling, which can help stop tooth grinding or other bad habits that can cause jaw pain.
But what do you do if these treatments don’t work? In the most extreme cases, some patients turn to oral surgery to repair the damage done to their joints. This treatment is reserved for individuals with severe TMJ, but if the pain isn’t stopping, it’s work talking to your dentist about it.
Whether you suffer from TMJ, need to remove your wisdom teeth, or simply need a routine cleaning, the team at Fairview Dental Group is here to help you. Call to schedule your appointment today!