Did you know that an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ disorder? Your TMJ, also known as your temporomandibular joint, is one of the most important joints in your body. It is also one of the most used. Your TMJ connects your jaw to the base of your skull and allows you to speak, chew and even yawn. You may not think much about your TMJ, however, until is produces painful symptoms.
When this jaw joint gets irritated, over-strained or inflamed, a condition called TMD can develop. Unfortunately, TMD is associated with some very disruptive symptoms that can be hard to live with if left untreated. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you understand TMJ and when this joint may be calling for your attention:
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
When the TMJ is dysfunctional and/or irritated, patients can experience a wide range of symptoms, including jaw pain, clicking and popping noises from your jaw, severe headaches, neck/shoulder pain, difficulty opening their mouth, ringing or pain in their ears and more. It is not uncommon for patients to go to a neurologist for headache treatment or an ENT for an assuming ear infection when the culprit is really the TMJ that needs to be addressed by a dentist.
What Causes TMJ Problems?
There are many factors that can contribute to a stressed out, misaligned or tight TMJ. Causes can include a bad bite, teeth grinding/clenching, excessive gum chewing, jaw injury, arthritis and stress. Some patients experience a painful TMJ because they clench their jaw when running or exercising. Letting a dentist determine an accurate cause of your TMJ pain is essential for planning your treatment.
Are There Home Remedies to Treat TMD?
In many cases, TMJ pain is an acute flare-up that can resolve on its own within a couple weeks. However, it is almost always necessary to implement some changes and therapy at home to encourage the jaw joint to heal and relax. This can involve a number of home remedies, including the following:
- Apply moist heat and/or ice
- Rest your jaw (avoid chewing gum or eating crunchy foods)
- Support your jaw when you yawn
- Consider jaw exercises
- Reduce your stress
- Take OTC anti-inflammatories
How Can a Dentist Treat TMJ Discomfort?
When you fail to find relief at home for your TMJ or if your jaw pain keeps coming back, it is time to see your dentist. Don’t wait until TMD ruins your quality of life and affects your overall health. A dentist can address TMD after first determining the culprit to your jaw symptoms. This may include wearing a night guard to prevent teeth grinding, orthodontics to correct a bad bite or available alternative therapies. Botox, acupuncture and electrical stimulation have all been used to help release or relax the jaw muscles that surround the joint so that symptoms can improve.
How Can Untreated TMD Affect Overall Health?
When the TMJ joint and surrounding muscles continue to stay over-strained, the discomfort can become debilitating. Not only can facial, jaw and neck pain compromise your quality of life, but it can also limit the way you eat. Therefore, untreated TMD has been associated with malnutrition.
In addition, when there is an imbalance in your TMJ (jaw joints), it is common to suffer from headaches, dizziness and nausea. Some patients even display poor body posture, premature wearing of their teeth, decreased strength and flexibility, compromised breathing airways, muscles soreness and other whole-body symptoms.
How is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?
A dentist, such as those at Group Health Dental, are uniquely equipped to diagnose and treat TMJ issues. To confirm you have TMD, we may perform an exam to look for swelling or tenderness around your jaw joint and ask you to explain your symptoms. X-rays as well as a CT scan can also be used to evaluate damage and irritation at the bones and joint tissues.
Are you suffering from painful jaw symptoms that are worsening instead of getting better? Turn to Group Health Dental in New York. We are experts in relieving jaw pain and helping patients live a more comfortable life. Call today to schedule your consultation for TMD diagnosis and treatment.