TMJ Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect your lower jaw to your skull, making chewing and speaking possible. These joints are on either side of your face right in front of your ears. Joint dysfunctions can occur at any age, impacting your ability to open your mouth comfortably. Here’s everything you need to know about temporomandibular joint disorders.
Causes Behind TMJ
The acronym TMJ is used interchangeably to refer to both the bones themselves and joint conditions. TMJ can develop after an injury to the jaw or nearby tissues. This disorder can be caused by dislocating the disc between the socket joint and the ball. It’s also possible the position of your teeth can eventually lead to this joint disorder. If you have family members with this condition, you’re at a higher risk of developing it in the future.
While many of the causes behind TMJ are out of your control, you may inadvertently develop the condition due to stress. Grinding or clenching your teeth for prolonged periods of time while sleeping can also lead to this issue.
Common TMJ Symptoms
Common symptoms of TMJ include tenderness or pain in your jaw. You may notice more discomfort when you’re chewing or even opening your mouth. The pain can center around your ears or cheeks, making it harder to identify the cause.
More extreme symptoms can range from ringing in your ears to swelling to tooth pain. It may feel like your jaw is locking in place. This feeling is usually accompanied by grating, popping, or clicking sounds. Prolonged TMJ symptoms can lead to frequent headaches and pain in your neck and shoulders. The moment you notice facial pain along with a change in your jaw’s range of movement, schedule a consultation for TMJ.
A healthcare provider can determine if you’re struggling with TMJ by observing your mouth’s range of motion. They’ll feel your jaw and search for areas that cause discomfort. To determine the full extent of the damage, they may perform X-rays to check your teeth and jaw bones.
A cone beam computed tomography scan can create a detailed 3-D image of your facial anatomy. You may also be asked to take a magnetic resonance imaging scan that will highlight any inflammation in the tissues around your jaw bones.
Available TMJ Treatments
The first step to effective TMJ treatment is finding a medical professional trained in jaw disorders. For example, an expert TMJ specialist in Los Angeles will help you identify your symptoms and find the best treatment options available.
Most treatment plans start with nonsurgical practices to slowly relieve the issues causing your disorder. You may be asked to add more soft foods to your diet and regularly apply hot or cold packs. Over-the-counter pain medication may be prescribed as well as muscle relaxants or low-level antidepressants. Night guards can also prevent grinding and keep your teeth in a safe position as you sleep.
These treatments are often recommended alongside relaxation techniques like acupuncture or biofeedback. Finding ways to lower your stress and relax your jaw can ease your pain and improve your body’s natural healing processes. You may receive a pain management referral to address your immediate soreness.
Depending on the severity of your disorder, corrective teeth surgery may be necessary. A specialist may recommend nerve stimulation therapy, deep heat treatments, radio wave therapy, or botulinum toxin injections. Extensive surgeries are the last resort and usually aren’t considered until you’ve undergone other corrective treatments. It’s often only a viable option if you’re suffering from prolonged extreme pain.
Reducing Your Risk of TMJ
Minimize your chances of developing a jaw disorder by wearing a night guard when you sleep and a mouthguard when playing sports. Learn new ways to manage your stress and keep your body relaxed. Set aside time each day to physically relax and stretch your jaw. Good head and neck posture while sitting are also vital to lowering overall tension and discomfort.
If your jaw hurts and is making odd noises, immediately schedule an appointment with a joint specialist. This issue won’t get better without professional medical care. Correcting your TMJ dysfunction can lower your stress levels while improving your quality of life.