Temporomandibular joint disorder, pronounced TEMP-er-o-man-DIB-u-ler and also called TMJ, affects the joints that serve as hinges for your jaws, located in front of the ears. The bottom jaw is connected to the temporal bone of the skull, hence its name. If you have TMJ, one or both of these joints swell and can cause you a lot of pain. The occurrence of TMJ is also more common in women than in men.
When your jaw muscles get too tight, TMJ can occur. Grinding your teeth, stress, or poorly fitting dentures can cause the muscles to get too tight which then leads to this condition. Genetics can also be a big factor because it puts you at a great risk of developing TMJ. Other issues such as bite problems or improperly lined jaws can also lead to the tightening of muscles.
Signs and symptoms typically include an aching pain around or below your ears. This usually affects one side of your jaw instead of both. Yawning will cause the pain to worsen because of the position it forces the swollen jaw to be in and pain could travel to your ears, neck, head, or shoulders. Another sign is if you hear clicking or popping sounds when you open and close your mouth. This could also make it difficult to open your mouth all the way and your teeth might not line up properly when your mouth is closed.
There are a few basic treatments for TMJ that you can do at home. Applying moist heat or cold packs to the side of your face will reduce the swelling and relax your muscles. Stretching exercises might be advised by your doctor that can also help relax the muscles in your jaw. Eating softer foods will lessen the pressure on your teeth and jaw and won’t cause more pain like hard or crunchy foods may tend to do.
Your doctor might also tell you to take off-the-counter pain medications that will relieve the pain and reduce swelling. A higher dose might be needed if the pain is persistent and too much to bear. Discuss which kinds are best for you with your doctor before taking any kind of medicine.
A splint or nightguard can be worn to prevent further clenching and grinding of your teeth. It will serve as a barrier between your jaws to protect against friction. The difference between the two is that splints are worn all day where as nightguards are only worn at night while you sleep. Your dentist will examine your specific situation and tell you if any of these options are right for you.
If your case is too severe for basic treatment, surgery might be necessary. No matter what the cause or what type of treatment you need, Dr Nayssan has taken a specialized TMJ residency program and can diagnose and treat your condition accurately and precisely. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, don’t hesitate to call our office to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.