The term TMJ refers to a variety of conditions that affect the TMJ, the hinge that connects the jaw and the muscles one uses to chew. While usually temporary and recurring, these conditions can be painful. Our team at Timberlake Family Dentistry have treatments available that may give you relief from TMJ symptoms.
What does TMJ stand for?
TMJ literally refers to the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), which are the hinges that connect your lower jaw to your skull. The numerous disorders associated with the TMJ muscles are often referred to “TMJ” or as “TMD” (TMJ Disorders). TMD is not just one condition, but a group of painful disorders that affect the TMJ and the muscles one uses to chew.
What is TMD or TMJ Disorder?
TMD is not just one condition, but a group of painful disorders that affect the TMJs and the muscles one uses to chew. It affects more women than men, and is usually temporary or occasional, but a small percentage of sufferers have serious chronic problems.
Do I have a TMJ Disorder?
The following are symptoms of TMJ Disorders. Not everyone experiences all of these problems. If you experience some of them, speak to Dr. Smith and have him perform a thorough examination.
- Jaw pain, stiffness or soreness
- Jaw pain while chewing, biting, or yawning
- Painful or tender jaw joint
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Restricted range of jaw movement or “locking” of the jaw in an open or closed position
- Painful clicking, popping, grinding or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- Pain and fatigue when eating hard or chewy foods
- Bruxism – grinding or clenching of teeth when awake or asleep
- Earaches without an ear infection
- Sensitive teeth and toothaches without evidence of dental problems
- Teeth that break or crack without an apparent cause
- Aching or radiating pain on the side of the head, face, neck and shoulders
- A burning sensation in the mouth/tongue
- Frequent unexplained headaches – sometimes diagnosed as migraines
What causes TMJ Disorders?
TMJ is not completely understood by the medical community, so research on causes and treatments continues. Some contributing factors may include:
- Trauma – a sharp blow to the face, head, neck or jaw
- Disease – osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout
- Age and Gender – it most often affects women of child-bearing age
- Bad oral habits – some believe TMJ can be caused or aggravated by activities that put the jaw in stressful positions, including tongue
thrusting, mouth breathing, wide yawning, and nail, lip, or cheek biting
- Habits and posture – cradling a telephone between your ear and shoulder, talking excessively, straining the shoulder with a heavy shoulder bag, and hunching forward to read
- Medical procedures – oral procedures that unnaturally hold the jaw open or those requiring intubations
- Bruxism – teeth clenching or grinding
How can TMJ be treated?
Make sure to first discuss all your symptoms with us and get a thorough examination. We will want to rule out other dental possibilities for your symptoms. There are a number of treatments available, ranging from simple and gentle to the more aggressive and permanent. It is best to make simple adjustments first, like eating soft foods, and not chewing gum, and consider more complex or permanent solutions only if necessary. Discuss available options with our team.
Simple techniques you can try on your own:
- Massaging the muscles of the face, neck and shoulders
- Practicing relaxation techniques designed to reduce stress
- Maintaining good posture and work and at home
- Trying to keep the jaw relaxed
- Avoiding hard foods and gum
- Avoiding stressful jaw movements like big yawns
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Maintaining a good diet and drinking plenty of water
- Moist heat or cold packs
- Over-the-counter pain medications
Medical solutions to discuss with our team:
- Prescription anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants
- Mouth guards or splints – mouthpieces and special appliances designed to fit or adjust your bite
- Reconstructive surgery
- Jaw joint or disc replacement