TMJ disorder (also known as TMD) is common, especially in women, and often goes undiagnosed until the pain or discomfort becomes unbearable. At Ambiance Dental, we believe in helping our patients feel great and live well which includes alleviating any issues that arise well before they become significant enough to impact your wellbeing. If you have been dealing with jaw pain, headaches or ear pain, read further and check in with us at your next appointment to explore your symptoms further.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.
The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of factors, such as genetics, arthritis or jaw injury. Some people who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth, although many people habitually clench or grind their teeth and never develop TMJ disorders. The alignment of the teeth within the upper and lower jaw may also contribute to TMD
So how do you know if you have TMD?
Here are some common symptoms:
- Jaw Pain
- Restricted Jaw Movement
- Clicking, Popping or Grating in the Joint
- Ear, Neck or Face Pain
- Facial Muscle Spasms
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Wear or Chipping of the Teeth
- Facial or Joint Inflammation
- Sensitive Teeth
- Headaches, Tension and Pain in the Neck, Shoulders or Ears
Another simple way to determine if you are having trouble with your TMJ is noted below.
If you suspect you may have TMJ disorder, it is best to consult with your healthcare team – dentist, chiropractor or medical doctor – to determine if there is a TMJ issue, what symptoms need to be addressed and the best treatment plan for you.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments. Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures have failed, but some people with TMJ disorders may benefit from surgical treatments.
Common treatments for TMJ disorder include:
- At-home treatments. These can include hot and cold packs, eating softer foods, avoiding gum, massage and stretching exercises.
- Oral splints or mouth guards. Often, people with jaw pain will benefit from wearing a soft or firm device inserted over their teeth to keep them from clenching and grinding.
- Orthodontics. When bite alignment issues are the cause of your TMJ discomfort, aligners or braces may be able to help shift the teeth to bring them into alignment.
- Dental restorations. These include dental crowns to restore your bite and dental implant crowns or dental bridges to fill in gaps in your teeth.
- Physical therapy. Along with exercises to stretch and strengthen jaw muscles, treatments might include ultrasound or moist heat and ice.
- Counseling. Education and counseling can help you understand the factors and behaviours that may aggravate your pain so you can avoid them. Examples include teeth clenching or grinding, leaning on your chin or biting fingernails.
- Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. If over-the-counter pain medications aren’t enough to relieve TMJ pain, your doctor or dentist may prescribe stronger pain relievers for a limited time, such as prescription strength ibuprofen.
- Muscle relaxants. These types of drugs are sometimes used for a few days or weeks to help relieve pain caused by TMJ disorders created by muscle spasms.
- Injections. In some people, corticosteroid injections into the joint may be helpful. Injecting Botox into the jaw muscles may relieve pain associated with TMJ disorders as well.
- Surgery. In some cases, you may require surgery to relieve your TMJ disorder. Your healthcare professionals will advise you on this and can refer you to a specialist if needed.
There are many symptoms and aggravating factors with TMJ disorder so it is always best to discuss your needs with a professional to determine what will work best for you and that treatment is administered in the most helpful way possible.
Your Ambiance Dental team is here to help. Book an appointment today to discuss your TMJ concerns and what treatment options are right for you!