What Is a TMJ Disorder?
If you’re experiencing chronic jaw pain or stiffness, you could have a TMJ disorder. But what does that mean? What causes TMJ disorders, and do they ever go away? If you have TMJ disorder symptoms, should you see a dentist or a doctor? We answer these questions and more below.
What Is a TMJ Disorder?
If you have a TMJ disorder, it means that \your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and/or the surrounding muscles and nerves do not function properly. The temporomandibular joints are located on either side of your head and connect your lower jaw to your skull. They make it possible to open and close your mouth so you can eat, drink, and speak.
You may be suffering from a TMJ disorder (TMD) if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Jaw joint or jaw muscle pain
- Jaw stiffness
- Face or neck pain
- Chronic headaches or earaches
- Limited jaw movement or locking jaw
- Unusual sounds when moving your jaw (popping, clicking, etc.)
- A change in the way your teeth bite together
Is a TMJ Disorder a Dental Problem?
Because TMD affects your jaw, it can also affect your teeth. The pain from TMJ disorders can actually feel like a toothache sometimes. TMD can cause dental problems like teeth grinding (bruxism), which wears down your teeth, causes tooth sensitivity, and can crack your teeth.
But certain dental problems can also cause TMJ disorders. Dentists are trained in diagnosing TMD and can treat dental-related causes. Plus, depending on its cause, TMD can also involve a lot of tooth damage, which will need to be treated by your dentist before it gets worse.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
TMJ disorders can have a variety of causes. As we just discussed, bruxism can result in TMD, but so can stress, arthritis, mouth injuries, misaligned teeth, nail biting, and frequent gum chewing.
Contact your dentist as soon as you start experiencing jaw pain. They can determine whether the cause is related to your teeth, and either treat the problem or refer you to a physician. Your dentist will examine your jaw joints and muscles for clicking, popping, difficulty moving, and tenderness to determine if you have a TMJ disorder. They will also check for tooth decay and signs of teeth grinding or a misaligned bite as possible causes.
How Do You Treat TMJ Disorders?
TMJ disorders sometimes go away without treatment. But treating the cause of your TMJ disorder can help you find relief sooner. Treatments for TMD may involve:
- Treating tooth decay or other sources of tooth pain
- Wearing a mouth guard for bruxism
- Fixing misaligned teeth with clear aligners like Invisalign
- Managing stress through meditation, exercise, or yoga
- Kicking your nail biting habit
- Avoiding chewing gum
There are also many other methods that your doctor or dentist may recommend or prescribe to help with TMD pain, especially if the cause is unknown. They might recommend:
- Eating soft foods
- Gently massaging your jaw muscles
- Applying a hot compress to your jaw
- Taking over-the-counter pain medication
- Taking prescribed medications like muscle relaxants
- Jaw-strengthening exercises
Diagnosing TMJ in Gilbert, Arizona
If you’re experiencing jaw pain, please contact Lifetime Family Dental. We’ll examine your mouth and determine if you have a TMJ disorder and whether or not a dental problem is the root cause. We can also treat the damage caused by TMD-related symptoms to restore your smile. Call us at 480-558-4331 today to schedule an appointment.
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