Everyone has pain in the jaw at some time in his or her life. It may be the result of contact in a touch football or basketball game, some relatively extensive work on the jaw at the dentist, due to tightened braces, or it could be caused by damage or infection in a tooth.
But when that jaw pain is extreme, when it involves shooting pain, or when even common things like talking or eating cause debilitating pain, more likely than not you’re dealing with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). At Gentle Dental, we can handle all aspects of treating your TMJ, except for surgery. In most cases, however, we can correct the problem without it requiring a surgical solution.
What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorders are a group of conditions that result in pain and compromised jaw function on the jaw joint and the muscles responsible for jaw movement. Mild cases of TMJ may cause shooting pain if the patient bites into something hard. With severe TMJ, any action involving the jaw causes debilitating pain.
How do you know if you have TMJ?
There are some telltale signs that you may be suffering from TMJ. If you experience regular pain when chewing or if you have pain in the jaw, neck, or lower facial area, that can often point to TMJ. Also, if your jaw locks or you have painful clicking or popping when you chew, those are symptoms of TMJ. Headaches and ringing in the ears can also be symptoms, but people often don’t connect the jaw area to those issues so they may not receive proper diagnosis.
What causes TMJ?
The disorder is usually caused by excessive grinding and clenching of the teeth, dislocation of the disc and soft cushion between the ball and socket, and cases of osteoarthritis in the joint.
Non-surgical treatments don’t cure TMJ, but they alleviate the pain and help to restore normal function. The team at Gentle Dental may recommend a plastic mouth guard to be worn at night. This is placed over the upper and lower teeth and prohibits the patient from grinding them together. Physical therapy that involves biofeedback, stretching exercises, and ultrasound therapy encourages muscle relaxation and increases the range of motion in the jaw joint.
If you have any of the symptoms of TMJ we discussed above, don’t deal with the pain any longer. Call us at Gentle Dental, (732) 549-5660, and let’s see if you have TMJ.