Your mouth is a powerful tool in your body that we often take for granted. You use it every day to help you eat, breath, yawn, speak and drink. Imagine if you experienced pain that limited your ability to move your jaw. Significant jaw pain and other symptoms could be a sign of a more serious problem called TMJ disorder, an issue that many people deal with on a daily basis.
Though little is known about what causes this disorder, there are plenty of remedies that can provide relief from the pain to ensure that you can continue living your normal lifestyle. Read on to see if your symptoms are consistent with this jaw disorder.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a hinge that connects the temporal bones in your skull to your jaw. There are two hinges, located on each side of the face, near your ears. This joint is responsible for allowing your jaw to move up and down, making chewing, swallowing and yawning possible.
What are the main symptoms?
One of the first signs that you may have a TMJ disorder is having pain or tenderness in your jaw or in one or both of your temporomandibular joints. The pain is not limited to your jaw, however. Pain from TMJ can also be felt in your face, neck, and shoulders, as well as pain in and around your ears, with possible swelling of your face. Additionally, you would likely experience difficulty and potentially pain while trying to chew your food, while you are speaking, or when you try to open your mouth wide. A disorder of the TMJ can also cause the joint to lock up. This locking up makes it difficult for you to open or close your mouth, leaving it stuck in either position.
In addition, you may experience common ailments such as toothaches, headaches, earaches, dizziness and hearing problems including ringing in your ears. You may hear a clicking, popping or grating sound coming from your jaw as you chew your food or open your mouth. While jaw noise is a symptom of a disorder, simply having a noisy jaw is not a definitive diagnosis. Many people who are diagnosed click their jaw, however not all jaw-clickers are diagnosed. Many people also will experience multiple symptoms or experience other coexisting symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Who Gets TMJ?
The causes of disorders of the joints in your jaw are not entirely known, and simply having jaw pain will not necessarily lead to a diagnosis or a jaw disorder. The bones that are working with the TMJ to help your jaw move are protected by cartilage and have a small shock-absorbing disk, which helps to keep the movement of your jaw smooth and pain-free. Erosion of this disk is one possible cause of a painful TMJ.
Additionally, arthritis can cause your joints’ cartilage to be damaged, or your joint being damaged by some type of impact. Therefore, major trauma to your jaw area could be a contributing factor to a diagnosis. Stress and tooth grinding are also thought to potentially have an impact. Oftentimes, however, it is unclear what the cause of the disorder is and people begin having symptoms with little clue as to why.
How Can it Be Treated?
Due to the inability to completely understand how a disorder is developed, treatment is also difficult. There are many ways individuals can help reduce their pain including eating soft foods, applying ice to painful areas, avoiding activities that will require extended use of the jaw including singing, yelling or chewing gum and practising jaw relaxation stretches and techniques.
Over-the-counter pain medication can be helpful, as well as compression and muscle relaxation therapy. For some individuals, using an oral appliance to stabilize and protect their teeth can be helpful.
All of these treatments are considered ways to alleviate pain for your jaw in the short term. If the pain persists, there are more invasive approaches. One of these is TMJ therapy which involves inserting needles into the joint to wash it out. This is used to help reduce your pain. The last option considered is surgery, which is irreversible, so it is essential to speak with a qualified plastic surgeon who is knowledgeable on dental surgeries.
Who Can Help?
Dr. Marissa Crandall-Cruz has a Doctor of Dental Medicine from Nova Southeastern University and has completed programs in periodontology and oral implantology, as well as a 2nd master’s degree in Oral Biology from Temple University. As a Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology and International Congress of Oral Implantologists, Dr. Cruz understands TMJ disorder and provides quality care in periodontal therapy, periodontal plastic surgery, dental implant therapy, as well as bone and periodontal regeneration therapies.
Visit Dr. Crandall Cruz’ site if you’re in need of TMJ treatment in the King of Prussia area.