What Is TMJ Disorder?
Jaw pain is no joke. It can be a chronic, life-altering disorder with a host of negative side effects including insomnia and even depression.
Named for the temporomandibular joints that connect the lower jaw (or mandible) to the rest of the skull, TMJ disorders cover a range of facial pain issues related to the joints of the jaw. According to the American Dental Association, around 15 percent of Americans experience chronic TMJ disorders. The good news is that treatment can often be fairly simple, and your dentist is your first line of defense. If you think you may have a TMJ disorder, getting a diagnosis and treatment plan from your dentist is key.
Why Are the TMJ Joints So Important?
According to a 2016 study published by the National Institutes of Health, the temporomandibular joints are among the most complex and important in the body. The key location of these joints in the skull and their impact on essential activities like eating and talking make addressing TMJ disorders all the more important.
What Are Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
Some of the telltale signs of TMJ disorders include:
- Frequent migraine-like headaches
- Tenderness around the jaw
- Clicking or popping in the jaw
- Problems or pain related to chewing
- Grinding the teeth or clenching the jaw
Talk to your dentist if you have any of these symptoms–there may be a relatively simple dental solution.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
The link between stress and TMJ disorders is increasingly clear. We may clench our jaw during stressful moments throughout the day and grind our teeth at night, leading to joint pain, headaches and beyond. On the flip side, the pain associated with TMJ can cause increased social anxiety, creating a negative cycle of pain and emotional stress.
According to the ADA, some other causes of TMJ can include:
- Dislocation of the jaw joint
- Tooth and jaw alignment issues
What Are the Best Treatments for TMJ?
A custom-fitted mouth guard/night guard to prevent or reduce grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw is often the best first step in treating TMJ.
Patients have also had success with other strategies including:
- Exercises to strengthen jaw muscles
- Acupuncture and other alternative therapies
- Medications including muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medications and anti-anxiety drugs
- Diet and lifestyle changes including eating softer foods and avoiding chewing gum
In extreme cases, oral surgery may be recommended, but it’s best to seek out non-invasive solutions first.
TMJ Treatment at Greenhill Family Dental Care
At Greenhill Family Dental, we are strong believers in the effectiveness of a custom-designed mouth guard for treating TMJ. We understand the impact that grinding and clenching can have on the jaw in our fast-paced, high-stress world. A dentist-designed TMJ appliance is specifically created to reduce the stress on your jaw muscles. In many cases, a night guard is all that’s needed, but in some cases, we recommend that patients wear an appliance during the day if clenching is a problem. And remember, mouth guards work best when they are designed by your dentist to treat your specific mouth and jaw issues and move your jaw in just the right way. In fact, there’s evidence that over the counter guards can even make symptoms worse.
If you have frequent headaches, jaw pain, clicking or popping, we encourage you to talk with our staff about treatment options. We’ll work with you and address your individual needs until we find a solution that really works for you.