If you’re suffering from jaw pain, you aren’t alone. Dental experts estimate the number of Americans suffering from TMJ disorders (TMJD) as high as ten million and climbing. TMJ is short for Temporomandibular Joint, of which there are two in the body. These joints are located on each side of the jaw, near the base of the ear, and are responsible for opening and closing the mouth. TMJ disorders typically occur when these joints fall out of alignment with each other, placing added strain on either side. When this happens, it can have consequences reaching across the entire upper body. In many cases, TMJ disorders are caused or aggravated by teeth grinding (also known as bruxism).
Teeth grinding can occur during the day or at night. Often it may be a completely unconscious action. During the day, common times people tend to grind their teeth include while driving, reading or writing, and as an automatic stress response. During the night, teeth grinding (bruxism) may occur as a natural reaction for keeping the airway open, or in response to other stimuli. Over time, what may seem like a harmless habit can damage teeth and create long-term Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) causing pain and discomfort.
Chipped and broken teeth are common visual signs of bruxism yet the symptoms may manifest in other ways. For many, the first indication or bruxism may be jaw pain, in the form of a TMJ disorder. When the bite falls out of alignment the muscles of the face, neck, back, and jaw will all attempt to compensate for the imbalance. This can lead to muscle aches, headaches or earaches, painful clicking or popping of the jaw, and a host of other TMJ disorders. TMJ/TMD symptoms tend to increase in severity over time. Left untreated, they may grow to affect daily actions, even those as simple as eating and speaking.
The symptoms (and severity) of a Temporomandibular Joint disorder will vary for each person affected. The symptoms of TMJ/TMD can range from obvious jaw pain to discomfort across the entire upper body. Clicking and popping of the jaw are common and may begin painlessly. Unexpected symptoms of a TMJD, such as earaches and migraine headaches, may be difficult to connect without first undergoing a TMJ evaluation. The range and slow onset of TMJ symptoms can make connecting the dots a challenge without seeing a dentist. Neck, shoulder, and back pain may be attributed to any number of other causes before being linked to a TMJ disorder. This can all lead to unnecessary doctor visits, medication usage, and other therapies all while leaving the root cause of TMJ symptoms untreated.
Today, many people are turning to TMJ mouth guards as a temporary relief solution for TMJ disorders. Worn at night, TMJ mouth guards can help prevent bruxism by creating a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth. By limiting wear and tear on teeth from grinding, the bite may be better managed offering temporary relief from TMJ/TMD symptoms. Before purchasing or wearing a TMJ mouth guard, speak to a dentist. TMJ mouth guards are specially-fitted to prevent causing more damage to the TMJ area. Wearing the right TMJ mouth guard can help reduce TMD symptoms to a manageable level, helping with day-to-day activities.
For permanent relief from TMJ/TMD symptoms, speak to a dentist about a TMJ evaluation. Advancements in neuromuscular dentistry have created breakthroughs in treating the root cause of TMJ/TMD, granting relief to thousands. While mouth guards offer possible temporary relief by reducing muscle inflammation and strain, a permanent solution will eliminate inflammation and strain completely. Typical solutions for the permanent treatment of TMJ/TMD include targeted dental procedures, fitted orthotics, and cosmetic dentistry. Correcting bite alignment can help eliminate chronic pain in the face, jaw, and across the upper body. Speak to your dentist about a TMJ evaluation and start moving toward permanent relief from TMD symptoms.