TMJ Awareness: Let Dr. E help you take control of TMJ
Chewing, talking and smiling are daily things that many of us take for granted, thanks to our temporomandibular joints (TMJ). But did you know that roughly 36 million people in the U.S. suffer from a TMJ disorder, with women much more likely to be affected by TMJ than men? People who suffer from TMJ disorders experience severe jaw pain and discomfort, which may even require surgery. Therefore, during National TMJ Awareness Month, the Dr. E Cosmetic & Family Dentistry team hopes to spread awareness about TMJ to help sufferers learn more and become empowered to take control of their TMJ symptoms.
Below, we’re sharing more about TMJ disorders, symptoms and treatments recommended by the TMJ Association and the dental community at large:
Why should I care about the TMJ (temporomandibular joint)?
The TMJ is one of the most complex joints in the body! As a matter of fact, we have two TMJs located in front of each ear and they act like sliding hinges, connecting the lower jaw bone to the skull. The TMJs move side-to-side and up and down, enabling us to chew and talk properly. In fact, they are the only joints in the body that work together as a unit. However, when a TMJ disorder is present, there are varying degrees of discomfort along with restricted jaw movement. In very severe cases, TMJ sufferers even have difficulty making facial expressions, swallowing and breathing.
What are the common symptoms of a TMJ disorder?
- Pain, discomfort or stiffness in the jaw
- Restricted movement or locking of the jaw
- Difficulty opening/closing the mouth
- Clicking or grating when opening/closing the mouth
- Pain or discomfort in the neck and shoulders
- Facial pain or aching
- Pain while chewing
- Chronic headaches
- Ear pain and/or pressure
What causes a TMJ disorder?
- Bruxism, also known as chronic grinding and clenching of the teeth
- Stress, which can cause excessive clenching and tightening of the facial muscles and jaw
- Arthritis in the jaw
- Physical injury or trauma to the jaw
- Autoimmune diseases that attack healthy mouth/jaw tissue
- Genetic or environmental causes
How to get relief from a TMJ disorder:
The good news is that most TMJ disorders are highly treatable. However, there are varying causes and degrees of TMJ so it essential to visit your dentist if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Based on the severity of your symptoms, your dentist will recommend one of the following courses of treatment to help you take control of your TMJ:
Mild to moderate TMJ
In mild or moderate cases, there are effective self-treatment methods that restrict movement of the jaw in order to control TMJ discomfort:
- Gentle therapy exercises to stretch and massage the jaw muscles
- Resting the jaw by restricting chewing and eating soft foods
- Applying ice or moist heat to help reduce symptoms
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
TMJ due to preexisting conditions
If TMJ is caused by teeth grinding, your dentist will likely recommend that you wear a mouthguard during sleep. Specially designed TMJ mouth guards can also help reposition and stabilize the jaw in order to reduce symptoms of TMJ. If osteoarthritis is causing the TMJ disorder, a steroid injection can help alleviate jaw pain and discomfort. Additionally, muscle relaxers have been proven effective in relieving less severe TMJ symptoms.
Complex TMJ cases
While non surgical treatment of TMJ is always preferred, complex cases of TMJ may require more specific treatment and/or surgery to alleviate discomfort and restore jaw function. For example, these types of TMJ treatments include:
- Arthrocentesis, a minimally invasive procedure where a tiny needle is inserted into the joint to flush away inflammatory debris
- Arthroscopy, a surgery that employs a thin tube placed into the joint to help identify and repair damage
- Open joint surgery, the most invasive surgical option involving either jaw repositioning or (in extreme cases) jaw replacement
Our goal is to keep you smiling! Don’t let TMJ symptoms interfere with your quality of life. See the TMJ website for more information: https://tmj.org/living-with-tmj/basics/
If you or a loved one are experiencing any recurring TMJ symptoms, please contact the Dr. E Cosmetic and Family Dentistry team today for a consult: 480-494-2435