What is a TMJ Disorder?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. You have one on both sides of your face. It acts as a hinge that allows your mouth to open and close, as well as move from side to side.
A TMJ disorder is when the jaw joint is damaged in some way. Most of the time TMJ disorders are mild, with most patients feeling relief after rest and time. However, sometimes TMJ pain is a sign of something more serious going on inside the joint.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
The most defining symptom of a TMJ disorder is jaw joint pain. But there are other symptoms to look out for, including:
- Ear pain
- Clicking in the jaw joint
- Stiffness in the joint
- Jaw lock
These symptoms can have a major impact on your life. You may find yourself skipping work or school because of the pain. Stiffness and jaw lock can make it hard to eat the things you love. So, if you start to notice these symptoms you need to a diagnosis as soon as possible.
Causes and Risk Factors of TMJ Disorders
Multiple things can cause a TMJ disorder. Injury, arthritis, and a bad bite are the most common. Stress is another common cause of TMJ disorders. Your body responds to stress in a variety of ways, including grinding and clenching your teeth. When you grind and clench your teeth you put excess pressure on the jaw joint. Over time the joint can wear down and cause TMJ pain.
There are also several risk factors for TMJ disorders including:
Eating hard, chewy foods
Diagnosing TMJ Disorders
Diagnosing TMJ disorders starts by gathering information about your medical history. We’ll want to know about any arthritis or past injuries. Let us know about any orthodontic or invasive dental work you’ve had. Sometimes changes to your bite can impact your jaw joint. The more information you can provide about your symptoms and medical history, the easier it will be for us to understand your TMJ disorder.
The next step in diagnosing TMJ disorders is the physical exam. We’ll look for any sign of misalignment by feeling your jaw while you open and close it. We’ll also listen for any popping or clicking sounds.
After reviewing your medical history and examining your jaw joint, we will need to get a better look at what’s going on in the jaw joint. So, we will get an X-Ray, CT scan, or MRI. These scans will give us a better picture of what is actually happening with your jaw joint.
Treating TMJ Disorders
Treating TMJ pain early is important so things don’t get worse. If you’re experiencing TMJ pain for the first time we encourage you to rest your joint as much as you can. Go on a soft food diet for a while to give your TMJ a chance to rest. Ice and heat therapy can also be helpful for mild TMJ pain.
If this doesn’t help we may look into mouthguards or even orthodontics depending on your case. In more severe cases, TMJ surgery is usually the only way to permanently cure jaw joint pain.
Our TMJ Specialists Are Here for You
Our goal at PRECiDENT is always to make sure we find solutions that really work for our patients. We know that living with the pain of TMJ disorders can be frustrating and painful and can get in the way of your life. That’s why we take so much time working with you to understand what is going on with your jaw joint. If you are tired of dealing with the pain of a damaged jaw joint, our TMJ specialists are here to help you find relief.
Let’s get started.