Jaw Problems? Everything You Need to Know about TMJ
The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the skull around the front of the ear. This joint allows you to move your jaw in order to chew, talk, and yawn. Problems with the muscles in your face, especially the jaw, are called temporomandibular disorders (TMD), but they are most commonly known as TMJ.
TMJ has various causes such as:
- A hard blow to the face or whiplash
- Pressure on the jaw from clenching or grinding teeth
- Stress that causes facial tightening
- Arthritis in the jaw
- Sinus infections
- Tooth decay
- Periodontal disease
TMJ is often painful and may be on one side of your face or both. The pain can be temporary or last for years. TMJ affects more women than men and often develops in people between 20 and 40 years old.
- Discomfort in the face, jaw, neck, shoulders, or ears (when speaking, chewing, or opening mouth)
- Difficulty opening your mouth wide
- Jaw becoming locked in the open or closed position
- Jaw making a popping, clicking, or grating sound when opening or closing mouth (May or may not be associated with pain)
- Face feeling tired or achy
- Feeling that teeth don’t fit together properly
- Facial swelling
- Ringing in the ears
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist. Symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so it is important to be diagnosed correctly.
Your oral surgeon will ask questions, look for tenderness, and listen for popping sounds. He or she will check your bite and facial muscles and take X-rays to look for other problems.
Other tests, like a computer tomography (CT), may be needed to see the bone or joint. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test may be scheduled to see if the disc in your jaw is in the proper position.
If your TMJ is not severe, your doctor may suggest:
- Over the counter medications, like ibuprofen or naproxen, to relieve swelling and pain.
- Eating soft foods like soup, eggs, fish, yogurt, and cooked vegetables. Avoid hard or chewy foods.
- Cold packs or warm, moist compresses
- Limiting excessive jaw movement – yawning, yelling, singing, gum chewing
- Keeping teeth slightly apart to relieve pressure and avoid clenching
If your case is severe, your doctor may suggest the following treatments:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – relaxation therapy of the facial muscles with low-level electrical currents.
- Ultrasound – heat therapy to improve mobility and reduce soreness.
- Surgery – as a last option (Seek a second or third dentist’s opinion before going this route)
For more help with TMJ or jaw pain, schedule a consultation with Solace Oral Surgery.