TMJ disorder is actually very common, yet many people who suffer from it don’t realize that they actually have a real and treatable condition. It occurs when there are problems with the joints on either side of the head that connect the skull to the jaw. There’s lots of potential causes of TMJ disorder, from stress and orthodontic problems to bad habits and eating hard or chewy foods. Here’s what you need to know about how to recognize TMJ disorder and what you can do to help.
The following are some of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder. However, they can also be symptoms of a range of other dental and health problems, so it is essential that you speak to your dentist to obtain a diagnosis before trying to treat your condition.
Audible clicking, popping and grinding noises when you move your jaw
Pain around your ear, jaw and temple
Persistent headaches and migraines
Difficulty opening your mouth fully
Your jaw locking when you open your mouth particularly wide, such as when yawning
Worsening pain when you eat or feel stressed
Poor quality sleep owing to pain from your temples and jaw
Every patient is different, and the severity of these symptoms may vary, and they may come and go. You may experience one of them, or a combination at the same time.
There are a few things that you can do to ease the pain associated with TMJ disorder, and not all of these involve the use of medications. Many patients find that using ice packs or heat packs held against their jaw can help ease inflammation and discomfort, while others prefer to massage the muscles around the TMJ to find some relief. Sticking to a soft diet will also help avoid irritating the joint and associated discomfort further.
If you do want to take pain medications, over the counter varieties are usually sufficient to ease your discomfort. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are particularly useful as they help to counteract any swelling as well as relieve pain. Your dentist will be able to advise you which pain relief may be best suited to you.
The treatments that you are recommended to try may depend on what your dentist believes is the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder. Some of the potential treatments include:
Diet management. Hard, chewy and sticky foods can make TMJ disorder worse. Sticking to soft foods can reduce the stress on your jaw and ease your TMJ symptoms or eliminate them altogether! Stick to things like mashed potatoes, well cooked vegetables, dairy, soft cheeses, rice, fish and healthy proteins to give your jaw a break!
Night guards. Night guards are a very effective treatment for TMJ, particularly where it is caused by clenching or grinding of the teeth. In addition, they can stop dental damage that occurs as a result of these habits. This is because they work by preventing the upper and lower teeth from coming into contact with one another, reducing stress on the jaw. Generic night guards are widely available, but for one with the best fit, speak to your dentist about a bespoke variety.
Stress reduction. Stress is one of the most common causes of TMJ, and your dentist may talk to you about ways to reduce or at least manage your stress so that it has less of an impact on your long-term health as well as your temporomandibular joint.
Orthodontic treatment. If your TMJ is a result of problems with the way that your teeth come together, you may be referred for orthodontic treatment such as a brace or Invisalign clear aligners, which alter the position of the teeth and jaw. Orthodontic treatment is usually a fairly lengthy process, but once complete, produces long-lasting results that reduces or eliminates the symptoms of TMJ disorder as well as improves the appearance and health of your teeth.
If you would like to learn more about TMJ disorder and what can be done to treat this common condition, please call our team to schedule a consultation at (253) 799-1490.