The term TMJ disorder, which describes dysfunction in the temporomandibular joints and adjoining structures, has become more recognized in recent years. You may have heard of this condition, but that doesn’t mean you would immediately spot the indicators of it in your life. Here, we want to point out some of the ways that a dysfunctional jaw may alert you to the problem at hand, and how you can address jaw pain with help from your Hedgesville dentist, Dr. Ken Barney.
What is TMJ disorder, anyway?
TMJ disorder is a condition in which one or more factors have led to stress in the joints that allow the lower jaw to move upward and downward, and side to side. These joints are not alone; they collaborate with a network of ligaments and muscles to achieve adequate movements that allow us to talk and chew without discomfort or limited mobility. When the joints and their “assistants” fail to work well together, a variety of symptoms may develop. Dysfunction may originate in a bad bite or a bad habit, such as grinding and clenching teeth.
What is often discussed regarding symptoms for TMJ disorder is a clicking or popping sound. This indicator is only one of several, and it may not even occur right away. It is beneficial to pay attention to:
- Discomfort or soreness in the jaw upon chewing or talking.
- Stiffness when you try to open or close your mouth.
- Freezing, referred to as lockjaw, occurs when the mouth is open or closed.
- Tooth sensitivity or pain.
- Swelling near the TMJs (sides of the face in front of the ears).
- Chronic tension headaches or migraines.
- Ear pain or ringing in the ears in the absence of infection.
What to do about TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorder may resolve on its own with a little home care. However, a thorough evaluation of the jaw and the bite should occur in conjunction with a few healthy habits, such as:
- Create stress-relief habits, such as going to yoga or just sitting quietly for some time each day. Psychological stress if often behind clenching and grinding that leads to TMJ disorder.
- Take small bites of food to minimize the stress of chewing.
- Stop chewing gum until symptoms improve.
- Massage the TMJs gently, or apply ice for short periods of time to reduce inflammation.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication to minimize symptoms.
Schedule a Consultation
These steps may improve TMJ caused by stress. However, an exam performed by your Hedgesville neuromuscular dentist can uncover the cause of TMJ to minimize future risk of the flare-up. Schedule your consultation at (304) 754-8803.