TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome, is a disorder of the muscles and nerves in the jaw. This disorder is specific to the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw to the skull. Usually, there was an injury to the temporomandibular joint, and this injury can lead to pain with chewing. This pain may be accompanied by odd sounds such as a clicking or popping of the jaw in addition to swelling or headaches. How can you tell if your jaw pain is related to TMJ, and what can you do about it?
Symptoms of TMJ
Some of the symptoms of TMJ may be obvious such as jaw pain or difficulty chewing, but there are other symptoms that could point to TMJ that you should be aware of. They include:
– Ear, face, or neck pain.
– Difficult or painful chewing.
– Difficulty opening and closing your mouth; limited mobility of your jaw.
– Clicking, popping, or grinding sound when chewing or opening and closing your mouth.
Just because you have jaw pain does not necessarily mean that you have TMJ. If you have any of these symptoms, you should follow up with your dentist. Jaw pain can also point to some other oral health problems such as a tooth abscess or even gingivitis and tooth decay.
The Effects of TMJ
While some people may only have minor symptoms and don’t feel the need to seek treatment, it’s always best to follow up with your dentist if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ or have diagnosed TMJ. This is because the disorder of the temporomandibular joint may be causing you to grind your teeth or have other long-term effects on your oral health. The effects of TMJ could include eventual muscle stiffness or arthritis from the affected muscles around the joint, headaches, and swelling of the jaw. The good news is you don’t have to live with these symptoms.
Treatment for TMJ
While there are more extreme treatments for TMJ including surgery and pharmaceutical drugs, there are things you can do at home to help ease your symptoms of TMJ. Apply ice packs if necessary and of course avoid jaw movements that stretch your jaw including chewing gum or big yawns. As stress can affect TMJ, try to reduce the stress in your life and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing for when you can’t. Your doctor may be able to talk with you about some exercises you can do to help improve the movement of your jaw. Some patients find that acupuncture helps to relieve their symptoms as well.
While TMJ is an unpleasant disorder, don’t self-diagnose your jaw pain. Visit your dentist to see if you could be grinding your teeth or have another oral health problem. TMJ should be evaluated by a doctor so that could can develop healthy practices and seek treatment if necessary.