When your TMJ is in good working order, you probably don’t even think about the fact it’s there. But when this small joint (or set of joints, actually) goes bad, you can’t talk, chew, or yawn without painfully feeling its presence.
The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, connects the jawbone, or mandible, to the skull. If you place your fingers on your face in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel its movement.
Although tiny, the TMJ is anything but inconsequential. It must be flexible in order to enable our jaw to perform all its functions. It is unique amongst the body’s joints in that it combines a hinge and sliding motion. This makes it one of the most complex joints.
Problems with the TMJ (called TMJ Disorder or TMD), afflict millions of Americans. Symptoms vary widely, but they are treatable. Read on to learn more about this common but debilitating disorder, how you can find relief at home, and how we will treat you at the dentist’s office.
If you live in or around Lewisville, TX and believe you suffer from TMD, call Creekview Family Dentistry today at 972-505-3423.
Do I Have TMJ Disorder?
Have you been noticing pain in your jaw when you chew or move your mouth? Have you been suffering from headaches or migraines? Does your bite suddenly seem not quite aligned properly?
TMJ disorder is associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other connective tissue diseases, which may cause the joint tissue to deteriorate. An injury may displace the disc, leading to TMJ problems. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is another risk factor. But often, there’s no obvious cause for TMD.
The disorder can manifest in a range of symptoms. If you’ve been noticing any of the following, you may have a problem with your TMJ.
- You have pain in the jaw joint itself or surrounding facial muscles.
- Your face often feels tired or fatigued.
- When you open your jaw, it locks in place and you have trouble closing it.
- When you move your mouth, your jaw joint makes clicking, popping, or grating noises (with or without pain).
- You’ve been experiencing ear pain or ringing in the ears (tinnitus), but don’t have an ear infection.
- Your face is swollen.
- You’ve been experiencing headaches and migraines.
- Your teeth seem like they don’t fit together properly.
- You have pain or soreness in the neck, shoulders, or upper back.
How Can I Ease My Symptoms at Home?
There are a number of ways you can help minimize your TMJ pain at home. Just remember that the more rest your jaw gets, the better. You don’t want to overwork it.
- Both moist heat and ice packs held to the side of the face can be effective in reducing pain and swelling.
- Over-the-counter medications, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are helpful for pain management.
- Don’t do anything that will tax the jaw or cause your mouth to open too widely: yawning, singing, shouting.
- Stress is associated with bruxism, which can lead to TMJ pain. Try to eliminate sources of stress, or learn meditation and relaxation techniques to help you manage it better.
- Gentle jaw exercises and stretches may help relieve discomfort.
- Stick to soft, easy-to-chew foods whenever possible. Don’t eat anything hard, chewy, or tough, or anything that requires you to open your mouth widely (like whole apples or corn on the cob).
- Try to avoid carrying heavy purses or bags. If you must, use a backpack or something that distributes the weight evenly. Or trade off shoulders.
- Try to keep your facial muscles in a relaxed state. Be aware of when your face is tensing up.
- If you spend a lot of time on the phone, get a headset so you don’t have to cradle the phone between your neck and jaw.
How We Can Help
There is no need to put up with the discomfort and pain of TMJ disorder. At Creekview Family Dentistry, we can relieve your symptoms and actually help repair your jaw with a mouthguard that you wear at night while you sleep. If you’ve been clenching or grinding your teeth in your sleep, the mouthguard will prevent you from continuing to do that. It will also hold your jaw stable, in a position that enables it to rest and heal. Because the guard is custom crafted to fit your mouth perfectly, it is comfortable to wear.