If you suffer from TMJ symptoms, there may be times when you feel you are alone. However, more than 10 million Americans suffer with temporomandibular joint disorder.
November is TMJ Awareness Month, and one of the goals of the month is the sharing of information and support with people who struggle with the disorder. TMJ symptoms can affect your ability to speak, eat, chew and even sleep. However, there is help for TMJ dysfunction at every stage of the disorder. Effective treatments may involve simple home relief steps, switching to a TMD diet, bite alignment, the use of a mouth guard, restorative dentistry or in some severe cases TMJ jaw surgery. The proper treatment is recommended by TMJ specialists called neuromuscular dentists, who are trained in diagnosing this all to common musculoskeletal disorder. To learn more about the treatment right now take a look at our TMJ treatment guide.
You have two temporomandibular joints, one in front of each ear, that connect your lower jawbone to your skull. These joints allow your jaw to move up and down, side to side, and back and forth so that you can bite, chew, talk and swallow.
As an abbreviation, “TMJ” refers to the temporomandibular joint itself, but it also can stand for a disorder with the joint or a symptom involving the joint. Some of the most common TMJ symptoms are:
- Jaw Popping
- Facial pain
- Neck and Shoulder Pain
- Waking Headaches
- TMJ Migraines
- Earache or Tinnitus
- Clicking, popping or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth
- Sensitive Teeth
- Even Sleep Apnea
What causes TMJ?
TMJ can be caused by physical stress on the structures around your TMJ joints, including a bad bite, braces, teeth grinding or stress. Poor posture, poor diet and lack of sleep also can be contributing factors to TMJ disorder.
Injury and other conditions that affect joints in the body, such as arthritis, also can cause TMJ pain. Women are more commonly affected with TMJ pain than men. To learn more about the causes see our TMJ diagnosis guide.
What are ways to treat TMJ?
Non-invasive treatments should be your first line of defense against TMJ pain. Gentle self-care therapies include relaxing and massaging the muscles around your jaw and limiting actions that can worsen the condition such as yawning, eating hard foods and chewing gum.
The application of moist heat or cold packs on your face often can help reduce pain. Another option is to exercise regularly and to practice techniques to reduce muscle tension and stress levels.
Pay attention to your posture, especially if you work at a computer. Take frequent breaks to change your position and to relieve stressed muscles in your neck, shoulders, hands and arms.
For many people, the pain and discomfort from TMJ disorder will eventually go away with home treatment. Some people, however, develop long-term TMJ problems.
If TMJ pain is affecting your way of life, it is time to seek professional help. A neuromuscular dentist who specializes in TMJ will thoroughly examine your mouth and jaw, take x-rays and review your medical history in order to make an accurate diagnosis and a recommendation for treatment.
Your dentist may recommend jaw exercises that will help you relax your jaw and may give you a prescription to control TMJ pain. Anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, or weak opioids may help reduce TMJ symptoms.
Other treatment options may include a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding during sleep or a realignment of your teeth. Surgery may be considered only as a last resort.
This November, as we recognize TMJ Awareness Month, it is important to realize you are not alone. For information on a neuromuscular dentist near you, click below.