TMJ Disorder – Symptoms, Causes, Side Effects, And Treatment

An estimated 10 million people suffer from TMJD or Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorder. In support of National TMJ Awareness Month and our patients affected by TMJ disorders, the team at Vassey Dental Partners would like to highlight the causes, side effects, and current treatment options. If you are currently struggling with TMJD, reach out to Vassey Dental Partners. 

What is TMJ? TMJ is short for the actual affected joint, the Temporomandibular Joint, and not actually the name of the disorder as it is commonly mistaken. The proper terminology is TMD or TMJD to refer to the disorder. The TMJ serves as a hinge binding the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. Basically, TMJ disorders occur when the TMJ does not move properly, which can cause pain as well as locking or clicking in the jaw joint.

Common Effects of TMJ Disorders

  •       Jaw Pain—When the TMJ does not function properly, jaw pain is a common occurrence. Jaw pain can be constant, but it will also be especially uncomfortable while eating or talking.
  •       Difficulty when Chewing—Since the TMJ works like a hinge, chewing requires the TMJ to slide to allow for the jaw to bring the teeth up and down. If the TMJ is locking up, the chewing process will be difficult or impossible altogether.
  •       Locked up Jaw—Someone struggling with a TMJ disorder may have their jaw get stuck in an open or closed position. There are some patients who have a grating or popping sound whenever they try to open and close their mouth as well.
  •       Ear Pain—Obviously, everything within the body is connected, but pain can make us especially aware of this fact. Since the TMJ connects the jawbone with the temporal bones near the ear, inner and outer ear pain is not uncommon.

Causes of TMJ Disorders—The possible causes for TMJD include teeth grinding, arthritis, dislocation, tooth/jaw alignment issues, injury, and stress.

Finding Relief from TMJ Disorders

If you are struggling with TMJ symptoms, the first step is to get an official diagnosis. Being aware of the extent of your situation will help guide you in finding solutions. There are a variety of steps patients suffering from TMJD can take to minimize pain, promote mobility, and experience relief.

  •       Choose Softer Foods—Avoid hard, crunchy, or chewy foods that will require your TMJ to do more work than necessary. Also, avoiding large bites, such as hamburgers or thick sandwiches, that require opening wide will help alleviate TMJ pressure. Foods like mashed potatoes, yogurt, soup, cooked vegetables and fruits, fish, eggs, and beans, will be easy to eat without overworking your TMJ.
  •       Alternate Heat and Ice—Place an ice pack on your face for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and minimize pain. Carefully complete a few jaw stretches. Afterwards, place a warm towel on your face for about 5 minutes. You can repeat this exercise a few times a day. Before starting this exercise regimen, reach out to your doctor or dentist for approval.
  •       Avoid Repetitive Motions—Your jaw needs a break, so avoid things that will make you open repeatedly or open wider than necessary. Simple things like singing, yelling, and yawning can be enough to cause pain, so avoid these things when possible. Chewing ice, your nails, or gum is ill-advised if you have TMJD.
  •       Practice Relaxation Techniques—Whether through physical therapy or massage, there are relaxation techniques you can utilize to alleviate discomfort and build your jaw strength. Ask your doctor or dentist if your TMJD could be improved through this method.
  •       Use a Night Guard—Teeth clenching and/or grinding can cause or exacerbate your TMJD. During the day, be aware of how you are holding your teeth. If you have a habit of clenching them, try placing your tongue between your teeth. At night, consider using a night guard. We make custom fit night guards that will not inhibit your sleep and will minimize grinding and clenching. If you are struggling with teeth grinding or clenching, schedule a consultation with us to be fitted for a night guard.
  •       Utilize Medication—TMJ disorders can cause muscle pain and swelling, so anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen or ibuprofen can provide relief. If over the counter solutions are not helping, your doctor or dentist may recommend the use of higher dose anti-inflammatory medications. Depending on your situation, a prescription muscle relaxer may be a helpful option for jaw relaxation.

The most important step is to schedule a consultation to discuss your TMJ disorder. There are some patients who require more serious procedures to find relief. We will help you explore the options and find relief through the most conservative methods possible.

If you are currently struggling with TMJD, reach out to Vassey Dental Partners. We want to help you find a solution to restore your jaw function and comfort.