If you have frequent pain in your teeth and jaw, you may have a condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD). TMJ affects the movement of the jaw. The jaw is responsible for the hinging motion that opens and closes the mouth. Therefore, when there is pain in the jaw, it can affect one’s ability to use their mouth. In fact, severe cases of TMJ can lock or “freeze” the jaw in place, making it painful or impossible to use.
Depending on the severity of your TMJ, you can experience a wide range of symptoms. With mild cases, you may hear a popping or clicking sound in your jaw joint. However, you may not feel any pain. It is important to note that repeated use of the jaw joint with TMJ can worsen your symptoms. This means that over time, you can experience pain. As the disorder gets worse, you may experience frequent headaches or pain that feels like an earache. In addition, some patients note that TMJ causes pain in their facial muscles.
You don’t need to suffer from TMJ because there are several treatment options available. To begin treatment, talk to your doctor so that you can understand the root cause of your condition.
What Causes TMJ?
There is not a “one-size-fits-all” option when it comes to TMJ. This means that there is no set cause behind developing TMJ. There is a list of factors.
One of the most common factors of TMJ is teeth grinding (bruxism). Teeth grinding is a condition where someone grinds or clenches their teeth. Typically, this behavior occurs at night while asleep, but it can become a coping mechanism for stress, anger, and anxiety. When your teeth grind together, it puts excess stress on your teeth and jaws. Not only does this increase your chances of damaging your teeth, but it can also create tension in your jaw muscles and joints. This can cause tight muscles and damaged cartilage.
There are medical conditions that can affect the jaw, causing TMJ. For example, arthritis is a condition that attacks the joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in your joints. When thinking of arthritis, many people think of knees, hips, or hands. However, arthritis can affect the jaw joints as well. Unfortunately, this swelling and stiffness can cause pain in your joints, creating more issues.
In addition, genetics and jaw injury can cause TMJ as well.
What are the Treatment Options?
After speaking to your dentist, they may recommend several options, including facial massage and physical therapy.
One option that your dentist can supply is a custom mouthguard. A mouthguard will provide a layer of cushion between your teeth. As a result, it will reduce the tension in your jaw and keep you from damaging your teeth. In addition, the mouthguard will minimize the stress on your teeth and jaw, reducing your TMJ symptoms.
Additionally, your dentist may recommend ice and rest. Icing your jaw can reduce swelling and inflammation. Like most injuries, resting can help your jaw heal and minimize your pain.