Is TMJ Disorder The Cause Of Jaw Pain?If you suffer from chronic facial pain, headaches, earaches, or jaw popping, you may have temporomandibular joint dysfunction– more commonly known as TMJ disorder. The temporomandibular (TM) joints are located on each side of your head. Along with the complex system of muscles, bones, and ligaments in your jaw, the TM joints allow you to chew and speak. TMJ is very common and is the leading cause of non-dental related chronic facial pain.
What is TMJ?When your TM joints are out of whack, you feel pain and discomfort in your jaw and face. TMJ is often caused by a misalignment in the jaw, resulting in a cross bit. TMJ is also caused by arthritis as well as trauma or injury to the jaw. Symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Jaw pain when eating or yawning
- Sore neck
- Pain in the ears
- Clicking or popping noises in the jaw
- Unexplained sensitivity in back teeth
Does Stress Effet My TMJ?In a word, yes.Experts consider stress as a leading factor in TMJ cases. When some people involve themselves in stressful situations, they clench their jaws and grind their teeth. These destructive actions aggravate the TM joints and cause inflammation. It’s not just mental stress– physically strenuous tasks cause TM joints to flare up as well.
Do I Have TMJ Disorder?If jaw pain is impeding your ability to function day-to-day, consult a dentist about whether or not TMJ disorder is the culprit. It is important to consult a professional before self-diagnosing yourself with anything. First, tell your dentist about your symptoms. Next, allow them to examine your face and jaw for signs such as inflammation. With this information, most dentists are able to diagnose a patient with TMJ disorder.With this information, most dentists are able to diagnose a patient with TMJ disorder. However, if the diagnosis is inconclusive, they may take x-rays or make a cast of your teeth to study your bite and jaw alignment. Once diagnosed, your dentist may offer various options for TMJ treatment.
Treatments For TMJ DisorderIt is important to note that discomfort from TMJ almost always fades on its own without treatment. Of course, stress or injury may bring it back.If your dentist diagnoses you with TMJ disorder, they will first offer advice on self-care practices that help. Gentle stretches ease TM joints. Also, incorporating exercise into your routine reduces stress levels and trains your body not to clench your jaw when physically strained. Additionally, a simple mouth guard protects teeth from nighttime grinding.However, if lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce pain from TMJ, your dentist can perform conservative and reversible procedures to ease it. Before going through with any procedure, check your dental benefits coverage in your insurance plan. You should also get a second opinion if a dentist advises you to go through a treatment that is irreversible.Your dentist may recommend one of the following treatments for TMJ disorder:
- Orthodontic treatment – If your teeth are poorly aligned, your dentist may recommend adjustment through orthodontic treatments such as braces.
- Relaxation techniques – If your anxiety exacerbates your TMJ, a dentist may advise you seek biofeedback or relaxation training to help manage your stress. If stress is beyond mental control, anti-anxiety drugs are a last-resort option.
- Reduce inflammation – Typically, rest and relaxation help your TM joints calm down on their own. If swelling does not easily reduce, over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen reduce inflammation. Furthermore, moist heat relaxes joints and muscles. A warm, damp cloth to the area or regular trips to the sauna may help with TMJ pain.