Published On: June 24, 2024By Categories: TMJ

Your TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint, is located on each side of your head near your ears. It is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull and makes it possible for you to do simple, everyday things like talk, eat, and laugh.

Because this jaw gets used so much, when it is not working right, you are going to feel it.

This article explores the signs of TMJ dysfunction, how TMJ disorders are diagnosed, and the available treatments.

What Causes TMJ Pain? 

While the exact cause of TMJ disorders is not always known, there are a few factors that can lead to problems with this joint. These typically include: 

  • Bruxism. Grinding the teeth at night or clenching your teeth together both put a lot of pressure on the joint. Over time, it can lead to discomfort — and pain that is disruptive to your quality of life. 
  • Arthritis. Your TMJ gets used a lot. And, as with any other joint, it can become arthritic.
  • Stress. There are so many negative ways that stress disrupts the body. And TMJ pain is no exception. The more stress you walk around with, the more likely you are to clench your jaw, whether you realize it or not. 
  • Misaligned teeth. When your upper and lower teeth are out of alignment and not fitting together as they should, it can cause pain in the joint. 
  • Trauma. Accidents, falls, fights, and more can all lead to face and jaw trauma. This, too, can lead to TMJ disorder. 

Sometimes the cause may be more easily known than others. Addressing it at the first sign is always a good idea. 

Signs You May Have a TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorders can seem to appear out of nowhere and impact each individual differently. For some, it is a temporary pain that goes away and never returns. For others, it may come and go at varying frequencies or it may be a chronic pain that sticks around long-term. 

A few signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders include: 

  • Sounds of clicking, popping, or grating when you open and close your mouth. (This symptom alone does not necessarily indicate a problem.)
  • Difficulty opening your mouth wide. 
  • Soreness or pain in the jaw, around the face, near the ears, and even into the neck and shoulders. 
  • Pain while chewing or taking a bite of food. 
  • Earaches, headaches, and toothaches.
  • Jaw locking when opened or closed.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek treatment from your dentist. 

How TMJ Disorders Are Diagnosed

Dentists are the ideal professionals to determine whether or not you have a TMJ disorder. Not only is this area their expertise, but there are so many other oral health issues that can mimic some of the symptoms listed above, such as tooth decay, gum disease, and sinus issues. 

The dentist will discuss your current and past medical history before performing a comprehensive oral exam. This will include looking closely at the joint and how it is working, as well as testing your bite and examining your oral health. Digital X-rays will also help the dentist see what the eyes cannot. 

If necessary, a procedure known as a TMJ arthroscopy can help confirm the diagnosis. This allows the dentist to see the jaw using a tiny camera. 

Treatment for TMJ Disorders

So, what happens if you are diagnosed with a TMJ disorder? What does treatment look like? 

At home, you can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, to cut down on pain and reduce swelling. Placing moist heat or ice on the outside of the jaw can also help to provide some relief. 

Eating soft foods and reducing stress can help, too. 

As for professional treatment, mouthguards can help tremendously. They keep the upper and lower teeth from touching to reduce the risk of bruxism. For many, this is all that is needed to feel relief. 

For those with missing teeth or misaligned bites, dental work such as dental implants, dental crowns and/or orthodontic treatment to improve tooth alignment and function can help. 

In more serious cases of TMJ disorder, oral surgery may be necessary.

TMJ Treatment at Creekview Dental

At Creekview Dental, our team of professionals will address all of your oral health concerns, including issues with your TMJ. If you have any of the symptoms above or you are just in need of a good dental exam, contact us today at 651-738-8204. Or, request an appointment online.

Recent Blog Posts