TMJ is the term often used to describe a condition affecting the jaw. TMJ disorder, as it is technically called, affects the joints on each side of the head where the lower jaw connects to the skull. It often results in pain and limited range of motion when opening your mouth.
If you have TMJ pain or other symptoms, you may be wondering how to relieve it, when to seek professional treatment, and who to see. Here’s what you need to know to get relief of your TMJ symptoms.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. The joint is located just in front of your ears on both sides. If you place your fingers in front of your ears and open and close your mouth a few times, you should feel your TMJ working.
What is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder occurs when there is a problem with the joint. The TMJ can become inflamed and even misaligned, resulting in short term or long term problems. Symptoms include:
- Pain in the TMJ
- Headaches in the temple region of the head
- Limited range of motion when opening and closing your mouth
- Popping or clicking sound when chewing or moving your jaw
- Swelling in the face
- Tension in the facial muscles
- Pain in the ear
- Can lead to muscular tightness and pain of the muscles of the head and neck (Myofascial Pain Dysfunction or MPD)
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
TMJ can result from a variety of causes:
- Excessive chewing. An excessive amount of chewing, such as chewing gum all day, can put strain on your TMJ.
- Teeth grinding. Grinding or clenching your teeth puts pressure on your TMJ and can cause irritation and inflammation.
- Chewing hard or chewy foods. If you eat hard or chewy foods that require a lot of forceful chewing it can cause TMJ disorder.
- Chewing or biting non-food items. It is always best to avoid biting or chewing on anything that is not food, such as pens or pencils. Never open containers or remove tags with your teeth. Any of these actions could cause TMJ disorder or damage your teeth.
- Injury to the face or jaw. A blow to the jaw or side of the face could knock the TMJ out of alignment and result in TMJ disorder.
- Arthritis. Sometimes TMJ disorder is caused by arthritis, an inflammatory condition that affects joints throughout your body, which can include the TMJ.
How Can I Get Relief from My TMJ Symptoms?
There are some treatments you can try at home to get relief of your TMJ symptoms:
- Apply ice. Using an ice pack or cold compress on the area can help. A schedule of 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for 24-48 hours can reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Rest your jaw. Try to rest your jaw as much as possible. Avoid talking, singing, and even yawning when you can. Eat soft foods that don’t require any chewing. Do this until your symptoms subside.
- Take anti-inflammatory pain medication. Over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can relieve the pain and inflammation that is caused by TMJ disorder.
When Should I Seek Professional Treatment?
If you’ve tried the above self treatments for a week with no relief, or if your symptoms keep returning after treatment, seek professional diagnosis and treatment. TMJ won’t necessarily go away on its own, and the condition may worsen without treatment.
Who is the Best Medical Professional to See For TMJ?
A dentist, or more specifically, a periodontist is the best medical professional to see for TMJ treatment. Periodontists specialize in the support structures for the teeth, which includes the jaw. They have extensive knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the jaw, which allows them to diagnose and treat TMJ disorder effectively.
Why Choose Progressive Periodontics & Implant Dentistry?
Progressive Periodontics & Implant Dentistry provides a variety of treatments for TMJ disorder. We evaluate the condition of your TMJ and determine the best course of treatment, beginning with the least invasive option and moving to more complex treatment as needed. Our goal is to provide you with lasting relief of your TMJ symptoms and prevent flare ups or recurrences.
Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.