At least 10 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular joint disorders or TMJD. Are you one of them? The TMJ is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. It’s found on both sides of your head, just below your ears. This joint controls the opening and closing of your jaw, allowing you to eat and speak. Having TMJD can cause the joint to feel tender, pain in the face, and difficulty moving your joint.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
There is no single cause of TMJ disorders. Every person is different. Many times trauma to the jaw or the joint can be the underlying cause.
However, there are also many other reasons you might start to experience TMJD. These reasons include:
- Structural jaw problems
- Regular grinding or clenching of the teeth
- Erosion of the joint
Other factors that could contribute to TMJ disorders but haven’t been studied to the same extent include:
- Excessive stress
- Low nutrient diets
- Poor posture
- Lack of sleep
- Use of orthodontic braces
Common TMJ Disorder Symptoms
Every individual is different and will experience symptoms of TMJ disorder differently. The severity of the symptoms will depend much on the underlying cause of the condition. For most people, though, pain in the jaw and the surrounding muscles is a common symptom.
Other symptoms associated with TMJ disorders that can occur on one or both sides of the face include:
- Pain around the face or neck
- Stiff muscles of the jaw
- Lack of movement of the jaw
- Clicking or popping sounds when the jaw is engaged
- Locking of the jaw
- Misalignment of the jaw
How Are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed?
No one test can immediately diagnose TMJ disorders. Often, describing symptoms alone with an examination of your jaw can help a doctor or dentist diagnose your condition.
Imaging tests can also help identify the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder. X-rays and MRIs of the jaw can diagnose any structural problems that could be causing TMJD. A CT scan of the jaw allows your doctor to see the joint tissues in addition to the bones. Understanding the underlying cause is the first step to getting treated for TMJD.
Treatment of TMJ Disorder
Because inflammation and irritation is a common cause of TMJD, most cases can be treated with self-care practices at home. It may help to:
- Use jaw-stretching exercise to improve movement
- Avoid chewing tough foods and gum
- Reduce stress and jaw movements
- Eat soft foods
A doctor may prescribe you pain medications, muscle relaxers, corticosteroid drugs to reduce swelling, bite guards, botox injections, or stress-reducing therapy in more severe cases.
If TMJD is the result of structural damage, then further action is required. A procedure such as correcting the bite and alignment of the teeth with braces may be necessary. Another procedure known as arthrocentesis involves removing fluid and debris from the joint. In severe cases, you might need surgery to replace the joint.
Schedule an Appointment
If you suffer from TMJ disorder, scheduling an examination with a qualified dentist will help you discover the underlying cause and get proper treatment. Our experienced team here at Dental of Clementon can help. Make an appointment today!