AROUND 35 MILLION people in the US are affected by temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD or TMJ) which is why it's important for us to observe TMJ Awareness Month! Between talking, yawning and chewing, we use our jaws pretty frequently. When those simple activities become more complicated, the source could be TMJ or TMD.
There is a small, fibrous disk that acts as a cushion between the ball and socket of our jaw joints, and if something goes wrong with that disk, such as it eroding or shifting out of proper alignment, or if arthritis wears away the cartilage on the bone or there’s a traumatic injury to the joint, the result could be a TMJ disorder. These are more common in adults, but kids can get them too.
How to Identify Symptoms of TMJ
Common symptoms of a TMJ disorder often include:
A grating sensation when chewing, clicking, or popping sounds in the joint
Tenderness or pain in the jaw
Painful or difficult chewing
Pain in on or both jaw joints
Locking of the jaw join, making it difficult to open or close the mouth
How to Soothe an Aching Jaw
There are a few ways to reduce TMJ pain.
Keep extreme jaw movements to a minimum (such as when singing or yawning).
Stick to small movements while chewing.
Remember that the jaw’s natural resting position is with the teeth slightly apart, not all the way closed.
How the Dentist Can Help
Thankfully, most TMJ pain is temporary and will go away on its own before too long, but some require treatment. Treatment can vary from simple measures like ice packs, exercise, and moist heat to more complex solutions like medication and splints, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound treatment, or trigger-point injections. Jaw surgery may be recommended if all else fails, and orthodontic treatment can help if the cause is related to jaw alignment.
Share Your TMD Symptoms with Us
If you are experiencing symptoms of TMJ disorder, schedule your next check-up with your dentist today -- we want to hear all about it! We can find out if there are underlying issues to your symptoms that need to be treated by a professional or if simple at home treatments can relieve your discomfort. Scheduling your next visit is easy! You can schedule online or give us a call or text at (650) 871-1400.