While not extremely common, jaw pain can be excruciating. It can prevent you from eating, feeling, and looking your best. Jaw pain is often related to TMJ. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ or TMD) disorders are conditions impacting the jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. They can arise from trauma, an improper bite, arthritis, or even simple wear and tear.
If you have been diagnosed with this type of disorder or are experiencing symptoms and think you have TMJ, now is the time to meet with a dental professional to learn about your options.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joints are on both sides of the face, right in front of the ears. The joints connect the lower jawbone to the skull and help the jaw move for speaking and chewing.
TMD stands for temporomandibular joint disorder and can refer to any dysfunction of the TMJ. The terms TMJ and TMD are sometimes used interchangeably. TMJ dysfunction happens when the jaw joint muscles and ligaments are irritated and inflamed. These conditions can be acute or chronic, with pain that can range from mild to severe.
Common symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Jaw tenderness
- Earaches or aching pain around the ear
- Aching facial pain
- Difficulty chewing or painful chewing
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Clicking sounds or grating sensations when opening the mouth or chewing
The good news is that you can cure TMJ with the right medical and dental providers and treatments. Treatments that may offer a permanent cure include:
- Custom-made splints. Splints are customized to fit your lower or upper teeth. They function as a cushion between your teeth, stopping you from clenching or grinding them. Since you can’t clench or grind your teeth, it allows the temporomandibular joint to rest and helps it recover.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy involves performing specific exercises for the joint, such as chin tucks, tongue up, forward jaw movements, and resisted closing. These exercises, as well as postural exercises, can help a lot with pain and function. However, you should consult an experienced physiotherapist before trying any of these exercises. Doing them wrong can potentially make matters worse.
- Acupuncture and massage. Both of these therapies can also be effective in curing TMJ disorders.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Also known as TENS, this unit provides low-voltage electric shocks to help cure pain. Electric currents are placed in the inflamed area and pass through the nerves to cure the pain.
- Surgery. Surgery should be reserved as a last resort and isn’t recommended by many medical experts. TMJ surgery is called arthroscopy and involves positioning the joints correctly and potentially performing other corrections that would take care of any underlying internal problem with the joint.
Do You Need a Cure for Your TMJ?
If you suffer from TMJ, the Dental Wellness Team is here to help you find a permanent solution. Our dental professionals are experienced and skilled in TMJ and other dentistry techniques. Contact us today to learn more about our services.