TMJ disorder, or TMD, is a condition that can cause even the most routine daily activities to be excruciatingly painful. Chewing, yawning, smiling, laughing, talking — these are things that most people take for granted. But with TMJ disorder, any movement of the jaw can bring pure misery.
Now for the good news: you don’t have to just put up with the pain. At Edgewood Dental Care of Edgewood, KY, we can diagnose and treat your TMJ disorder. To request an appointment, call our office at (859) 474-7830.
What is the TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. (Thank goodness for abbreviations!) These are the joints — one on each side of the head — that connect your jawbone, or mandible, to the skull. If you place your hands on your face just in front of the ears and move your mouth, you can feel the joints in action.
The TMJ may be small, but because it combines a hinge and sliding motion, it’s actually one of the most complicated joints in the body! Its distinctive construction enables it to perform an amazing variety of roles, but it also means that when something goes wrong, it’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause.
TMJ disorder occurs when something goes wrong with the TMJ joint, causing pain and other problems. Though the source of the problem is the temporomandibular joint, the symptoms vary widely.
- Soreness in the jaw joint itself.
- Tenderness or pain in the muscle surrounding the jaw joint.
- An earache (but no infection present).
- Clicking, grating, or popping sounds when you open or close your jaw. This may or may not be accompanied by pain.
- Persistent fatigued feeling in the facial muscles.
- Jaws that get stuck or lock in position.
- Difficulty chewing.
- Bad bite (teeth don’t seem to fit together properly).
- Pain or soreness in the neck, shoulders, or upper back.
- Headaches or migraines.
What Are Causes and Risk Factors?
We don’t always know the cause of TMJ disorder. But it can result from the soft, cushioning disc in the TMJ being worn down or moving out of correct alignment; an injury or blow to the joint; or damage from arthritis or another degenerative disease. People who clench or grind their teeth are at higher risk, as are people with high amounts of stress (which may lead to jaw tension and even teeth grinding, otherwise known as bruxism).
Are There Home Remedies for TMD?
There are several things you can do at home to help manage your jaw pain.
- Gently massaging the muscles around the jaw joint can provide relief.
- Ice packs and/or moist heat may help.
- Avoid foods that are hard or crunchy, or that require you to open your mouth widely to eat (sorry, no corn on the cob for you). Eat soft foods instead. These do not stress your jaw, enabling it to rest.
- Reducing stress through relaxation techniques, guided meditation — or whatever works for you — means you are less likely to clench or grind your teeth.
- Make a conscious effort to keep your facial muscles relaxed.
- Maintain good posture. If you sit at a desk most of the day, sit up straight and use a chair with good back support. If you use the phone a lot, get a headset so you don’t have to cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear.
- Avoid chewing gum.
- Do not carry a large or heavy bag on your shoulder. If you must, alternate sides.
- Try not to yawn. If you can’t resist, yawn without opening your jaw too wide.
- Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help.
How Will Edgewood Dental Care Treat My TMD?
When you come in for your appointment at Edgewood Dental Care, one of our skilled doctors will conduct a thorough examination to determine if you do have TMJ disorder. If you do, we can craft a custom mouthguard that you will wear at night. The mouthguard keeps your upper and lower jaws separated, so you cannot grind your teeth as you sleep. This gives your jaw an opportunity to heal.
Maybe you’ve seen mouthguards at your local drugstore and are wondering if those are just as effective. These are not custom fit to your mouth and therefore, will not be as comfortable and will not work as well.
It’s time to stop living with TMJ pain. If you live in or around Edgewood, KY, book an appointment with Edgewood Dental Care. You can get in touch via our handy online form or by calling our office at (859) 474-7830.