If you suffer from the effects of TMJ, then you likely experience mouth and jaw pain, sometimes on a daily basis. TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint” and this is a joint located on the side of the face. When patients have problems with this joint, swelling, pain, popping sounds, headaches and more can happen. The right dental treatment for TMJ can help reduce aches and pains in your face. Find out more about this condition and see how dental intervention can help your symptoms go away!
What Is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorder may be called by this name, TMJ, TMD, temporomandibular joint dysfunction and other similar terms. All mean the same. Any given year there are between 50 and 70 million people in the U.S. with some type of sleep disorder. TMJ is considered a sleep disorder, but also an oral health issue. Problems with this may happen more commonly at night, but you’ll feel the pain and symptoms all throughout the day. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that around 10 million Americans have TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder).
This disorder is centered in the face and it can be mild in some patients and severe in others. TMD has to do with your facial joints where the jaws move. Joints allow different body parts to move and pivot on hinges. They connect various bones to one another. When muscles, ligaments and tendons pull bones in certain ways, they are able to pivot and move because the bones have joints. When you open and close your mouth, the temporal bone and your mandible (jawbone) are both moving thanks to the temporomandibular joint. These two connecting bones are what the jaw joint is named for. In a patient with TMJ, the temporomandibular joint becomes inflamed or stiff, making movement painful.
Signs, Symptoms and More
Do you have pain when chewing, even if the foods are soft? How about daily headaches or migraines, or pain that is centralized in your face, jaws, neck or ear area? These are all signs of temporomandibular joint disorder. Some patients will also feel like their jaw joint is locking up on them. Others will audibly hear popping sounds or their jaw may seem to click or grate with movement, especially when opening or closing the mouth. Other common symptoms include:
- Difficulty with chewing, especially harder foods
- Mild tenderness to severe pain in the jaw area near your ears
- Pain in the exact area of the temporomandibular joint
- Problems with your jaws locking up, making it difficult to open and close your mouth
If you have one or more of these symptoms, have your dentist check you for TMJ. In many cases, you don’t have TMD because of something you did. Some patients will clench or grind their teeth at night, causing pain in this joint, but it’s not something that can easily be controlled without dental help.
Treatment for TMJ
There are several ways to detect the reason for your joint pain. Some patients will have arthritis, which can easily affect their jaw joints, causing that pain and inflammation. If you know you have a jaw injury, this can affect the jaw joint as well. Others will clench and grind their teeth. We can examine the teeth and see signs of that clenching or grinding, because the teeth will physically look worn in certain areas. This is a common cause of TMJ, and luckily, it can be treated with a customized dental device.
After your examination, we will likely fit you for your own customized dental guard. These can be small and fit right over your teeth or they can be larger if you also have issues with sleep apnea. Depending on the patient, we will take digital or mold impressions on your teeth to get an exact model to create a dental device from.
For TMJ, your dental device will be hard, sturdy device that can can the pressure of clenching and grinding. It is thicker on top of your teeth to protect them from damage or breaking from the pressure the opposing jaw places on the other teeth. Because pressure is sent into the dental device, it takes that pressure off of your teeth and temporomandibular joint, helping you to be pain-free. Fairly quickly after receiving your device, you will start to see your symptoms go away if you wear the device as you should.
A dental device can significantly improve your symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder. However, during that time of transitioning from pain and stiffness to getting relieve from your dental device, there are ways you can help your symptoms at home. Some tips to relieve pain include:
- Eat soft foods. Low-sugar yogurt, fruits, cooked veggies, pasta and other soft foods are great for getting nourishment without causing extra pain from chewing hard foods.
- Take over-the-counter pain medications. These can relieve pain and inflammation in your joint. Acetaminophen will help with pain and ibuprofen will help with both pain and inflammation.
- Use cold/heat packs. Patients will generally like cold or they will prefer heat for pain relief. Cold will help with swelling and pain. Heat can do the same, but can help speed up circulation and healing to an inflamed temporomandibular joint.
- Depending on the severity of your pain and stiffness, your dentist or medical professional may suggest specific facial exercises to strengthen your jaw area.
We offer a TMJ exam that evaluates the joint tissue in the hinge of the jaw. Swelling, deterioration of the joint tissue or damaged joint tissue can happen without proper dental treatment. This is why we want to see you when you start to have the symptoms we’ve mentioned. To have a free consultation or to schedule your appointment, call Dr. Evanson’s office at (720) 409-0008!Leave a reply →