What Is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?
Are you experiencing headaches? Do you have face, neck, shoulder pain, or teeth sensitivity?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a joint that slides and rotates just in front of your ear, consisting of the temporal bone (side and base of the skull) and the mandible (lower jaw). Mastication (chewing) muscles connect the lower jaw to the skull, allowing you to move your jaw forward, sideways, and open and close.
The joint works properly when the lower jaw and its joint (both the right and left) are synchronized during movement. Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) may occur when the jaw twists during opening, closing, or side-motion movements. These movements affect the jaw joint and the muscles that control chewing.
What is Temporomandibular Disorder?
TMD describes a variety of conditions that affect jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints (TMJ), and nerves associated with chronic facial pain. Symptoms may occur on one or both sides of the face, head, or jaw, or develop after an injury. TMD affects more than twice as many women than men and is the most common non-dental related chronic orofacial pain. TMD can be relieved with a TMJ treatment, which is simple and can be done at home.
What causes TMD?
Normal function for this muscle group includes chewing, swallowing, speech, and communication. Most experts suggest that certain tasks, either mental or physical, cause or aggravate TMD, such as strenuous physical tasks or stressful situations. Most discomfort is caused from overuse of the muscles, specifically clenching or grinding teeth (bruxism).
These excessive habits tire the jaw muscles and lead to discomfort, such as headaches, neck pain, or shoulder pain. Additionally, abnormal function can lead to worn or sensitive teeth, traumatized soft tissues, muscle soreness, jaw discomfort when eating, and temporal (side) headaches.
There are many symptoms that could point to TMD:
- An earache without an infection
- Jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon
- Jaw pain when you chew, bite, or yawn
- Clicking when opening and closing your mouth
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- Locked or stiff jaw when you talk, yawn, or eat
- Sensitive teeth when no dental problems can be found
What can I do to treat TMD?
Most TMD cases can be treated by unloading (resting) the joint as well as taking a non-aspirin pain reliever and practicing stress management techniques. It’s important to break bad habits to ease symptoms. Most treatment for TMD (TMJ treatment) is simple, often can be done at home, and does not require surgery.
For example, control clenching or grinding during the day by sticking your tongue between your teeth. If you still experience pain, you may be grinding or clenching your teeth at night. So see Dr.Barry and Dr. Love for a nighttime mouth guard.
Most people will experience relief with minor TMJ treatment. More severe cases may be treated with physical therapy, ice and hot packs, posture training, and orthopedic appliance therapy (splint). Eating soft foods and avoiding chewing gum also help relax the muscles.
Is TMD permanent?
The condition is often cyclical and may recur during times of stress, good or bad. As the patient, you should be active in your TMJ treatment by being aware of the causes of your jaw problems after seeing Dr. Barry or Dr. Love for a diagnosis. Make routine dental appointments, so Dr. Barry and Dr. Love can check TMD on a regular basis. If you think you may have TMD, feel free to contact us to discuss your options. Call the office at 614-451-2234 or fill out our Schedule Appointment Form.