Temporomandibular Joint Pain
Amazingly enough, the condition known as TMJ is widespread amongst many people, yet they may not even know they have it…or what they can do about it. Typically, the first telltale sign of TMJ is a clicking – sometimes very loudly – of the jaw when chewing or yawning, in addition to a grating sensation when the mouth opens. But the good news is that if there’s no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don’t require TMJ treatment.
Other signs and TMJ symptoms may include:
• Jaw tenderness or pain
• Aching pain in and around the ear
• Chewing difficulty or discomfort
• Facial aching pain
• Difficulty opening or closing the mouth due to joint locking
Causes of TMJ
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) operates by way of a fusion of hinge action and sliding motions. In people that do not experience TMJ prblems, this movement is kept smooth by cartilage that covers the parts of the bones that interact in the joint, all of which is kept apart by a shock-absorbing disc. Painful TMJ problems can occur if:
• The disc erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
• The cartilage of the joint is damaged by arthritis
• A blow or other impact damages the joint
Other more common causes of TMJ include:
• Bad bite
• Teeth grinding
• Poor posture (for example: Holding your head forward while looking at a computer all day, straining the muscles of the face and neck)
• Poor diet
• Lack of sleep
What Exactly is “TMJ”?
This syndrome refers to pain in the jaw joint that can be caused – as we have covered above – by a variety of medical problems. The TMJ connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear, and TMJ problems come into play when certain muscles that control chewing are affected. Problems in this area can cause head and neck pain, facial pain, ear pain, headaches, a jaw that is locked in position or difficult to open, problems biting and the more common jaw clicking/popping when biting.
TMJ Syndrome Prevention
You should seek medical attention if you experience persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw, or if you find yourself not being able to open or close your jaw completely. A TMJ specialist such as Dr. Michael Sherman and Park Avenue Dental can discuss possible causes and treatments. Still, becoming more aware of tension-related habits such as clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth or even chewing on gum will assist you in reducing TMJ symptom frequency.
The following tips may also help you alleviate symptoms of TMJ disorders:
• Avoid Overuse of Jaw Muscles – Try to consume softer foods and cut food into small pieces. Here is where you also want to steer clear of sticky or chewy foods – and especially avoid chewing gum.
• Stretch and Massage – Your doctor, dentist or physical therapist may show you how to perform exercises that stretch and strengthen your jaw muscles, and how to massage the muscles yourself.
• Apply Heat or Cold – Applying warm, moist heat or ice to the side of your face may help alleviate pain.
In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ may disappear without treatment. If your symptoms persist, Dr. Sherman and Park Avenue Dental can recommend a variety of treatment options.