Countless Americans suffer from TMJ jaw pain. In many cases, jaw pain can be linked to disorders affecting the temporomandibular joint (the TMJ). The TMJ can be found on either side of the face, near the base of the ear where the jaw and skull come together. This joint is responsible for opening and closing the mouth, and other jaw movements. If the TMJ falls out of alignment or becomes otherwise damaged, it may lead to a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Temporomandibular joint disorders are interchangeably referred to as TMDs or simply, TMJ. TMJ affects millions of Americans. Lacking proper diagnosis and treatment, the symptoms of TMJ can worsen, affecting daily life. The signs and symptoms of a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD/TMJ) include:
- Clicking or popping in the jaw which may (or may not) be accompanied by a painful sensation.
- Muscle aches in the facial area, the jaw, and/or the neck
- Headaches, which may include nausea and other symptoms similar to migraines
- Difficulty opening and/or closing the mouth, including while speaking, eating, and yawning.
- Inexplicable back, shoulder, and other upper-body muscle aches
- Earaches, often mistaken for ear infections
- Swelling and tenderness in the jaw area, and around the face
The signs and symptoms of TMJ vary by individual. Depending on the person, the severity of their disorder, and their underlying TMD cause symptoms range from painless inconveniences to incapacitating pain. As symptoms can manifest across the upper body, trouble with the TMJ is often overlooked. Each year, people spend untold amounts attempting to relieve the symptoms of TMJ without addressing the cause. Once a TMJ diagnosis is made by a dentist, people suffering from TMDs can seek relief.
Relieving TMJ Discomfort
Oftentimes, the underlying cause for TMJ discomfort is beyond the reach of at-home remedies. Still, temporary remedies can help with TMJ discomfort while seeking a permanent solution. For temporary relief from pain and discomfort associated with TMJ, common treatments include:
Adopting a TMJ diet. TMJ pain can be exacerbated by exertion placed on the jaw muscles. Many people suffering from TMJ find a soft diet with limited chewing helps alleviate TMJ symptoms, and reduce flare-ups.
Relaxing the jaw. Clenching the jaw and grinding the teeth place a lot of stress on the jaw and the muscles responsible for its operation. Also known as bruxism, jaw clenching may be conscious or unconscious and can happen during the day or at night.
Changing habits. Alcohol and tobacco use has been linked to TMJ discomfort and a host of additional dental afflictions. Reducing or eliminating consumption may help alleviate TMJ pain.
Over-the-counter medication. Some pain medications available over-the-counter can help reduce the pain associated with TMJ, temporarily. Always follow the manufacturer instructions and speak to your doctor before taking any medication.
While each of these solutions can reduce the pain associated with TMJ, they are each of them temporary. For permanent TMJ, schedule a TMJ evaluation with a dentist. Advancements in neuromuscular dentistry allow dentists to correct the underlying cause(s) of TMJ for permanent relief. With many TMDs, TMJ pain can be traced to alignment issues where the jaw meets the skull. This can be due to hereditary factors (such as underbite and overbite), injury or illness, bruxism and more. Dentists experienced in treating TMJ can work to repair jaw alignment, treating the cause.
Permanent TMJ Relief
Permanent TMJ relief often includes a several-step process beginning with a TMJ evaluation. TMJ evaluations are non-invasive, utilizing a combination of photography, digital measurements, and consultation. Achieving proper alignment through a specialized bite guard allows for the development and execution of a permanent action to alleviate TMJ symptoms – for good.
If you’re experiencing any of the listed TMJ symptoms, or think you may be suffering from a TMD, contact a dentist. A TMJ evaluation may uncover the root cause and can allow for permanent treatment. For more on temporomandibular joint disorders or to schedule a TMJ evaluation, contact a dentist today.