Your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are positioned in front of your ears on the sides of your head. These joints connect your lower jawbone, or mandible, to your skull at the temporal bone.
The joints work like hinges as they allow you to move your jaw up and down, forward and back, and sideways. You use your TMJs more than any other joint in your body. They are the joints responsible for opening and closing your mouth when you chew, talk, swallow, and yawn.
With so much wear-and-tear, it’s relatively common for your TMJs to develop problems. Swelling and inflammation of the joint and the surrounding muscles can cause pain and inflammation. About 12% of Americans experience TMJ disorder at any given time, with more women than men with the issue.
Since TMJ disorders can result from a wide range of causes, identifying the reason for your pain requires a professional examination. TMJ treatment specialist Eric Koch, DDS, of Advanced Dental Care of East Texas, provides expert diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. Dr. Koch and the team have the experience necessary to help you get relief from TMJ pain and related symptoms before your condition worsens.
Find out more about TMJ disorders and how treatment can restore pain-free function and a full range of movement.
A TMJ disorder can be related to many factors. Common causes of this condition include trauma to your temporomandibular joint, jaw, head, or neck. Teeth clenching or grinding due to stress can contribute to TMJ pain.
TMJ pain can be a symptom of the dislocation of the cartilage-like disc in the joint. In a defective TMJ, the disc may dislocate in front of your lower jaw bone when you close your mouth and reposition itself onto the lower jaw when you open your mouth. When this happens, it typically causes a popping or cracking sound.
TMJ issues can also develop due to arthritis, which includes a group of degenerative and inflammatory disorders. Misalignment of the joints or genetics can also make you more likely to have TMJ problems.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders can vary significantly. The most common symptom is dull, aching jaw pain or soreness. Discomfort is typically centered on the muscles that control your jaw function.
Other common symptoms include:
Some people experience symptoms that become worse, then improve over time. However, without treatment, the condition can cause long-term persistent and debilitating pain that can interfere with your ability to perform normal activities.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder, it’s essential to get an accurate diagnosis of your condition. The struggle of living with chronic pain can deteriorate your quality of life and eventually lead to anxiety and depression.
Persistent jaw and facial pain can affect your sleep, eating patterns, and overall mood. It can lead to additional problems such as insomnia, inadequate sleep, and misuse of medications if you try to self-treat your pain.
When your mouth becomes misaligned as the result of a TMJ disorder, your teeth can become susceptible to irregular wear, resulting in chips and worn enamel.
Most cases of TMJ pain improve over time with conservative treatments. These treatments typically provide relief for most people.
Self-care such as eating soft foods, using ice packs, limiting jaw movements, and practicing relaxation techniques, can reduce and relieve symptoms at the earliest stages of TMJ pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also provide relief.
Persistent TMJ pain may require custom-made orthotics that improve the alignment of your jaw. That may involve the use of a bite guard or stabilization splint. These devices can reduce grinding and clenching but don’t cause permanent changes to your teeth or jaw.
Depending on your symptoms, you may benefit from transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). The outpatient procedure applies low-voltage electrical currents to relieve muscle tension and help your joint muscles relax. Electrical impulses are delivered through electrodes positioned at trigger points or near the nerves where your pain occurs.
When conservative treatment doesn’t relieve your TMJ pain, Dr. Koch may recommend oral surgery. Oral surgery can be used to repair or replace a damaged joint.
Don’t continue to live with TMJ dysfunction and pain. Find out how to get relief. Schedule an appointment online or call Advanced Dental Care of East Texas to arrange a consultation.