Your mouth is made of more than just your teeth and tongues. There are lots of moving parts in your mouth that function behind the scenes, such as your facial muscles and your jaw. While not as common as tooth decay or gum disease, these other areas in your mouth can experience problems, too. One of the most common of these problems affects a part of your jaw called the TMJ. Let’s take a look at what TMJ is and how it is treated.
What is TMJ?
TMJ is the acronym for your temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that connects your skull and jawbone. It also acts as the hinge for opening and closing your jaw. You have two of these joints on either side of your face and their smooth operation is essential for a comfortable speaking and chewing experience.
When problems with your TMJ happen, it’s called a TMJ disorder. These disorders can be uncomfortable and painful at times, but they are mostly temporary and often don’t require any kind extensive surgery or treatment to be fixed.
In some cases, the cause of TMJ is easy to discern, such as in the cases of traumatic injury, but there are many times when the exact cause of the disorder can’t be identified. Many times, TMJ is caused by stress-induced behaviors like teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
Do You Have TMJ?
Most people experience brief moments pain and tenderness in their jaws at some point in their lives, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a TMJ disorder. While this brief pain and tenderness is definitely a symptom of TMJ, there are a variety of other symptoms you should consider:
- Consistent, aching pain in your facial muscles
- Consistent, aching pain in or around your ears
- Pain specific to your temporomandibular joints
- Difficulty or pain during chewing
- Jaw locking, either when opening or closing
If you have TMJ, you may also experience a feeling that your jaw is grating or clicking, associated with further pain. However, if you experience these sensations without the pain, you likely won’t have to worry about having a TMJ disorder.
Should You See Your Dentist?
TMJ disorders can be painful, uncomfortable and annoying, especially if not treated properly, but they aren’t life threatening. If you think you might have a TMJ disorder and can’t open or close your jaw or your pain won’t go away, don’t hesitate to see your dentist or a doctor. While the problem isn’t life threatening, it can be a huge nuisance and your dentist can review some treatment options with you.
How Can You Treat TMJ?
There are three main ways to treat TMJ disorders: medication, therapy and surgery.
- Medication: Using medication to treat TMJ is done to relieve the pain experienced as a result of the disorder. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to reduce the pain, but you may also need your dentist or doctor to prescribe you something stronger if the pain doesn’t go away. You may even be able to use muscle relaxers for a short amount of time to help reduce your pain.
- Therapy: Physical therapy is the most common form of treatment for TMJ disorders. There are even a variety of jaw exercises you can perform at home to treat your TMJ. Your dentist may also suggest using a mouth guard or oral splint to help prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
- Surgery: Surgery is often used as a last resort to treat TMJ. There are a few different surgeries that can treat your TMJ disorder, ranging from simple injections to minimally invasive procedures. If your dentist thinks that surgery is the best option for you, they will explain all the benefits and risks involved.
Living with TMJ
You don’t have to suffer from a TMJ disorder forever. If you think you’re suffering from a TMJ disorder, don’t hesitate to make an appointment at our office. We can help diagnose you and create a personalized treatment plan.