The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the hinge connecting your lower jaw to the temporal bone of your skull. It plays a crucial role in many jaw functions, including chewing. If you’re experiencing pain when opening or closing your mouth, jaw stiffness, difficulty chewing, ear pain, headaches, or a clicking or popping sound when you open your mouth, you might be dealing with a temporomandibular disorder, also known as TMD.
Although the disorder is formally known as TMD, most people refer to it simply as TMJ, the name of the joint. Jaw pain can arise for many different reasons, including stress, continual clenching of the jaw muscles, or teeth grinding/bruxism.
In order to recognize when you may need TMD/TMJ treatment, it’s essential to understand the symptoms associated with it, including:
- Pain when opening or closing your mouth: If you experience discomfort when performing basic jaw movements, it may be indicative of TMD.
- Trouble chewing: Difficulty or pain while chewing can point to issues with the temporomandibular joint.
- Jaw becoming stuck open or shut: Another sign of TMD is the jaw occasionally being locked in an open or closed position.
- Headaches or ear pain: Unexplained ear pain or chronic headaches can be linked to issues with the TMJ.
- Clicking or popping sounds: If you hear popping or clicking noises when you open your mouth, it may be a sign that you have joint issues in your jaw.
- Teeth grinding (bruxism): Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, especially at night, can contribute to TMJ-related complications.
Many of these symptoms can be associated with other health problems, so it’s essential to consult with a medical professional to determine whether TMD/TMJ is the true cause of your pain or discomfort. Prolonged teeth grinding, in particular, poses further risks since it can lead to enamel erosion, exposing the softer dentin underneath and increasing your susceptibility to decay. Bruxism may also cause you to develop a sensitivity to hot and cold foods or drinks.
TMJ Treatment Options
If you suspect you may have a TMJ disorder, consulting with a dentist or other healthcare professional is the first step toward finding relief. At Sunset Dental Care, our experienced team can diagnose your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan to alleviate your discomfort.
For short-term treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers can help you manage jaw pain on a temporary basis. Applying hot or cold compresses to the affected area can also be effective, providing relief from inflammation and muscle tension.
If your pain stems from teeth grinding, night guards can be an excellent TMD/TMJ treatment option. They act as a protective barrier while you sleep, preventing further damage to your teeth and alleviating the destructive effects of bruxism.
At Sunset Dental Care, we create custom-fitted night guards by taking an impression of the teeth and sending it to a dental lab. The result is a comfortable guard that can contribute to a more permanent TMD resolution over time.
Behavioral TMJ Treatments
In many cases, patients see significant improvements through behavioral TMD/TMJ treatments. These interventions focus on addressing the root causes of jaw pain by changing the ways you use your jaw muscles. As part of your TMD/TMJ treatment, our team at Sunset Dental Care can guide you through exercises and movement techniques that promote healthier jaw function, providing long-term relief without the need for invasive surgical procedures.
In very severe cases, or when other TMJ treatments haven’t provided relief, surgery may be the best option. As we thoroughly assess your condition, we can help you determine whether surgical options align with your individual needs and preferences.
Depending on the specifics of your condition, surgery may involve scar tissue removal, medication injection, joint reshaping, or arthrocentesis, which is a minimally invasive procedure in which fluid is injected into the joint, flushing out chemical byproducts of inflammation and helping to reduce the pressure that causes jaw stiffness and pain.
Find Relief at Sunset Dental Care
Don’t let TMJ pain disrupt your daily life any longer. If you suspect you may need TMJ treatment, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with the expert team at Sunset Dental Care. We are proud to offer comprehensive, personalized care, helping you achieve optimal oral health and enjoy pain-free jaw function. Contact us today to embark on a journey towards a healthier, happier version of yourself.