Most people are unaware that they have TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, and everyday facial movements like smiling, laughing, chewing, or talking can be extremely debilitating. The exact causes of TMJ can be difficult to determine, and because other conditions, such as toothache or sinus problems, can present similar symptoms, it is important to communicate closely with your dentist.
First and foremost, what exactly is TMJ? It is a disorder that affects the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull and is responsible for opening and closing the mouth. This is a unique joint that both slides and hinges. TMJ can cause a variety of problems, such as headaches, neck pain, toothaches, clicking or popping noises when moving the jaw, and severe grinding and damage to natural teeth and porcelain crowns.
There is no standardized method of testing to determine if you have TMJ, and in most cases, a physical examination can help dentists correctly diagnose the disorder. A common symptom is bruxism, also known as grinding or clenching of the teeth, and plays an important role when diagnosing possible TMJ disorder cases. In addition to this, other symptoms include headaches, migraines, facial pain, jaw pain, numbness in your fingers or arms, sensitive or loose teeth, dizziness, ear pain, and insomnia, just to name a few. Your dentist can examine for TMJ by checking the range of motion of your jaw, and depending on the amount of discomfort, he or she may need to take X-rays or a CT scan.
The majority of TMJ can be managed with professionally prescribed home care, exercises, and behavior modifications. You can also implement the following practices into your lifestyle to ease the pain:
- Resting the jaw: Avoid chewing gum, clenching the teeth, or eating hard foods.
- Apply ice or heat: Ice will help with swelling, while heat will help ease the pain.
- Massage: Massaging the jaw muscles can help ease the pain and tension.
- Mouthguard: A mouthguard can help to prevent teeth grinding and clenching.
As we go through TMJ Awareness Month, it's important that you recognize whether or not this condition is affecting your everyday lifestyle and decide which form of treatment is best for you. Checking in with your dentist is always important when you feel pain, but keeping up with regular dental check-ups, good oral hygiene, and awareness can also help you as you navigate any issues.
For more information or to make an appointment, please visit www.phdental.com or call 855-PHD-CARE.