TMJ … you’ve probably heard of it, and you may be wondering if you have it. If you have jaw pain, you should be evaluated for the condition.
The temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) connects the temporal bone (the bone that forms the side of the skull) and the mandible (the lower jaw). This disc of cartilage separates the bones, so you can easily talk, chew, etc. When something goes wrong with the TMJ, you may experience TMJ pain — often just referred to as “TMJ.”
If you have displacement of the cartilage disc, it can cause pressure and stretching of the associated sensory nerves. There may be popping or clicking that happens when the disk snaps into place when the jaw moves. Your chewing muscles may spasm, not function correctly, and cause pain and tenderness.
TMJ pain can be caused by trauma, grinding your teeth (bruxism), stress or chewing gum. Symptoms of TMJ may include:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Jaw popping or clicking
- Pain in and around the ear
- Frequent headache
- Aching facial pain
- Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
- An uneven bite
- An uncomfortable bite
At Enlighten Dental, we can do an evaluation for TMJ pain. The earlier TMJ Pain is identified, the easier it is to minimize symptoms.
Patients with jaw pain will need a thorough medical, behavioral and familial histories review. Then, we will manipulate your jaw, listen and interpret jaw joint sounds, measure jaw mobility, and possibly do X-rays. Other types of pain can mimic a TMJ disorder, so a complete exam is important to make an accurate diagnosis. If the problem is dental in nature, an Enlighten Dental dentist can propose a treatment plan. Often, a splint is custom made to support the jaw joint, and keep the teeth separated. In addition, TMJ pain may need medication to break a muscle spasm.
There are other ways to ease your TMJ pain, including:
- Ice packs or heat packs
- Eating a softer diet
- Avoiding chewing gum or certain foods
- Cutting food into smaller pieces
- Doing chewing muscle stretching exercises.