What Is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder refers to issues that affect the temporomandibular joint (usually shortened to TMJ). The TMJ is a hinge that joins your lower jawbone to your skull. It allows you to move your jaw in several directions so you can yawn, talk, and chew.
Complications with your jawbone and the muscles that work with it are called temporomandibular disorders (TMD). But many folks will say they have TMJ, denoting they have TMD or an issue with their TMJ.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
It is unclear what causes TMJ disorder, but several factors can trigger it. Possible causes include:
Bruxism - Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth can make you more likely to develop TMJ disorder.
Trauma - For instance, a blow to your face or jaw.
Dental problems - Such as problems with your bite.
Dental work - Mostly due to having your jaw open for a long time during a dental appointment.
Genetics - Jaw muscle stiffness and poor occlusion (contact between teeth when your jaws bite together); can run in families.
How Do You Know If You Have a TMJ Issue?
You may experience:
Debilitating pain in your face, mouth, jaw, or ear.
Aches when chewing or have trouble chewing.
Joint locking, making it hard to close or open your mouth.
Popping or clicking sounds in your jaw.
Toothache or tooth sensitivity without necessarily having a dental health problem.
The signs and symptoms of TMJ disorder may resemble other medical issues. Hence, you should visit your dentist at Courthouse Art of Dentistry or doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Is TMJ Disorder Serious?
TMJ disorder is not a life-threatening condition. But it can have devastating effects on your oral health and general well-being.
Treating TMJ Disorder
For most individuals, pain from TMJ disorder will eventually clear up on its own. For example, popping or clicking sounds in your jaw without discomfort are normal, happen often, and do not require treatment.
When you first feel pain in your jaw muscles and joints, your dentist may recommend eating softer foods. Your dentist may also have you stop habits such as teeth grinding and clenching or chewing gum because they can worsen the TMJ disorder.
Along with that, pain relief medications or applying mild heat or ice packs to the aching side of your face can help ease discomfort.
In some cases, TMJ disorder may require further treatment.
For instance, a locked jaw will need a dental adjustment to help it open and close. Similarly, jaw pain caused by grinding and clenching of teeth may necessitate the use of splints and night guards. These mouthpieces sit over your lower and upper teeth so that they do not meet. They reduce the effects of clenching or grinding and fix your bite by aligning your teeth in a proper position.
If the treatment methods mentioned above do not work, your dentist may suggest further dental work like placing crowns, braces, or bridges to restore your bite.
Treatment may also include complementary therapies. These are non-mainstream procedures used alongside conventional medicine to help relieve pain from TMJ disorder and improve the ability to move your jaw. They include ultrasound, Botox, radio wave therapy, trigger point injections, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
For more on TMJ disorder, visit Courthouse Art of Dentistry at our office in Arlington, Virginia. You can call 703-778-0854 to book an appointment today.