What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects your jaw to the lower part of your skull. It helps you with everyday things like talking, eating and yawning. It’s this joint that can cause problems in the jaw and muscles in the face that control the joint.
The symptoms of TMJ are painful. TMJ is hard to diagnose in people because it can vary so much; It can be temporary or TMJ can last years, and it can affect one or both sides of your face. More women have TMJ than men, and its most common in people between 20 and 40 years old.
TMJ can cause: pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide; jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in a position; clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint; a generally tired feeling in the facial muscles; trouble chewing or an uncomfortable bite; swelling on either side of the face. Other symptoms could be toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain and ringing in the ears.
What is the cause of TMJ?
Though we aren’t sure what actually causes TMJ, dentists believe that the symptoms arise from problems in the muscles or parts of the joint itself can cause the painful TMJ. Injury to the jaw, the joint, or muscles of the head and neck can lead to it as well. Grinding or clenching your teeth puts a lot of pressure on the joint and can cause TMJ, and so can stress. Other possible causes are things that you can’t control, like the movement of the soft cushion or disc between the joint and arthritis.
How do you prevent TMJ?
TMJ is tricky in that it tends to be episodic and relates to lifestyle. If you play a lot of sports or are under a lot of stress, your chances of getting TMJ are increased. Preventing TMJ has a lot to do with being easy on your jaw.
Some ways to prevent TMJ are: eating generally soft foods and not always eating hard things or things that require big bites; to avoid chewing gum; maintaining proper posture; making sure to reduce stress, practicing stress reduction and relaxation techniques; and properly protecting your jaw and face by wearing the proper equipment.
Are there any remedies?
While you should always wait until you get diagnosed and treated properly, there are a few home remedies that can help you relieve jaw pain.
Over-the-counter medications (NSAIDs only) can help you with pain and relieve any swelling you may have. Applying an ice pack to the side of your face that is in pain can help will swelling, too. Eating soft foods can help prevent jaw pain and headaches, and avoiding hard, thick foods will prevent these as well.
Talk to your dentist about what you can do to help your jaw pain at home. They fully understand what your unique TMJ situation is and will be able to give you a self-care regimen that fits your needs.
At Mogren Dental, we provide many services for TMJ and can help you figure out what your next steps should be if you think you may have TMJ. To set up an appointment with us, call 231-737-5500 or request an appointment online.