If you experience throbbing headaches, pain and tenderness in your jaw, or have difficulty chewing, you may be one of the millions of Americans who suffer from a TMJ disorder. This November is TMJ Awareness Month, and we’re breaking down the causes, symptoms, and treatments of TMJ disorders so you can learn the most effective ways to stay pain-free year -round.
What is TMJ?
Every person has two temporomandibular joints (TMJ) that rest in front of each ear. These joints allow your jaw to move in hinge and sliding motions so you can talk, chew, or swallow. When TMJ disorders strike, they can cause pain and restriction of the jaw, along with a myriad of other unpleasant side effects that can critically damage quality of life, including:
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth (jaw locking)
- Tenderness and pain in the jaw
- Pain in or around the ears
- Migraines and tension headaches
- Neck and shoulder pain
Oftentimes, there are a number of factors that can contribute to painful TMJ disorders, ranging from stress, to teeth grinding, to a bad bite. Most of these factors place undue pressure on your jaw’s joints, leading to the characteristic symptoms of pain, tightness, and restricted range of motion.
Treatment Options for TMJ
Because TMJ disorders can affect your ability to speak, eat, and even sleep, managing the pain and discomfort brought on by TMJ problems can feel overwhelming. However, regardless of stage, there are a number of effective treatments for patients to try. While most TMJ disorders are resolved with conservative treatments, surgical intervention is sometimes needed to relieve discomfort and pain. Some conservative treatments include an adjusted diet, bite realignment, wearing a mouth guard, or restorative dentistry. Patients with stress-induced TMJ may find counseling and exercises to be helpful.
If patients have TMJ caused by malocclusion (an improper bite), one of the most effective treatments is orthodontics. Orthodontic treatment can correct the improper bite and ensure that the jaw functions without compensating for misaligned teeth. In many cases, orthodontics can also reduce rates of jaw clenching or teeth grinding, since misaligned teeth are more prone to these TMJ-inducing habits.
If you routinely suffer from painful TMJ disorders, take the first step toward a pain-free life by scheduling an appointment with us today. By determining the causes of your pain, we can discuss treatment options that will transform the way you feel and leave you with your happiest, healthiest smile yet.