Pain in your jaw or trouble moving your mouth are symptoms of TMJ disorder. Learn what causes problems in your jaw joints and your treatment options.
What is TMJ disorder?
When you talk, eat, and yawn, you're using your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). These two joints are where your lower jaw is attached to your skull and the hinge movement allows your jaw to open and close. In a perfect world, your TMJs are aligned and working great all the time; however, some people have serious problems with their jaw. Also known as TMD (temporomandibular disorder), TMJ disorder can range from chronic pain in your jaw to difficulty
opening and closing your mouth.
What causes TMJ disorder?
TMJ disorder is caused when too much physical stress is placed on and around the jaw joints. This may be the result of arthritis, dental malocclusion (a misaligned bite), bruxism (grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw), as well as bone disease or a tumor in your jaw. There are currently many clinical studies trying to determine the specific cause of TMJ disorder. Research has found that TMJ disorder is more common in women, particularly between the ages of 20 – 40 years old.
What are the signs of TMJ disorder?
Some of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder are jaw pain, headaches, and unusual noises when they open or close their mouth. If you have one or more of the signs of TMJ disorder listed below, schedule an appointment with a New York City dentist as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
Jaw or ear pain
Most patients with TMJ disorder will feel some degree of pain in the jaw. This may be mild or severe depending on your specific condition, but it will be persistent. Many patients also feel pain in their ears. The TMJ is located near the ears, so the inflammation may spread and feel like an earache. If your regular physician has ruled out an ear infection, ask your NYC dentist to check for TMJ disorder.
If you have chronic headaches or migraines and a doctor cannot find a cause, you might ask your dentist to assess your jaw. Headaches are common in TMJ disorder, which may be caused by teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
Tender muscles in the jaw
Clenching your jaw, either at night or throughout the day, can lead to sore jaw muscles. If your jaw muscles feel tender or sore even though you haven't been smiling or speaking a lot, it may be a symptom of TMJ disorder.
Swelling in your lower face
One of the most visible symptoms of TMJ disorder is swelling along your jaw and throughout your lower face. The inflammation caused by TMJ disorder will make your lower face look puffy and swollen, especially around your jaw joints.
Noises when you open your jaw
When you open or close your jaw, do you hear a popping or clicking noise? This can be the result of a displaced disk in your jaw. The displaced disk inhibits jaw movement and can lead to your jaw getting stuck.
Your jaw feels stuck
If you feel a bit like the Tin Man struggling to open his mouth enough to ask for his oil can, you might have TMJ disorder. Your jaw may be difficult to open and/or close, which makes eating and speaking very difficult. In some people, the jaw may get locked temporarily.
Home TMJ treatments
Liquid or soft food diet
TMJ can make it difficult to bite and chew solid foods, so many people with TMJ disorder find relief by following a liquid or soft foods diet. This treatment is typically better for short-term use while you are waiting to get a diagnosis from your dentist since it can be difficult to get adequate nourishment from only liquids and soft foods.
If your jaw muscles feel sore, you may try relaxation techniques like meditation or mindfulness. Ask your New York City dentist to recommend a relaxation technique that may help soften your jaw muscles and improve symptoms of your TMJ disorder.
Jaw strengthening exercises
In addition to relaxation techniques, your dentist may give you exercises to do at home that will help strengthen your jaw muscles. Jaw strengthening exercises can help stretch your muscles to alleviate the stiffness associated with TMJ disorder.
Over-the-counter pain relievers
For short-term relief of jaw pain caused by TMJ disorder, you may want to take non-prescription pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help if you jaw is swollen, sore, or tender; however, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist in New York to discuss long-term treatments.
Professional TMJ treatments
Disclusion Time Reduction (DTR) therapy
DTR therapy is an advanced treatment that adjusts a patient's bite to alleviate symptoms of TMJ disorder. A T-Scan™ and EMG (electromyography) are used to measure the muscle activity in your jaw, as well as the timing and pressure of your bite so your dentist can determine how your teeth need to be altered for better symmetry and balance. SmilesNY is one of the few dental practices in the New York area to offer state-of-the-art DTR therapy for TMJ disorder.
For patients who grind their teeth and clench their jaw at night, a night guard can help treat TMJ disorder. Night guards can be purchased online and in stores, but for maximum relief and comfort, it is better to get a custom night guard made by a dentist in New York City. Made from digital or physical dental impressions, a custom-made night guard protects your teeth from grinding and keep your jaw relaxed while you sleep.
Depending on the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder, a New York City dentist may recommend a prescription medication for pain, anxiety, or inflammation. Once your dentist determines the cause of your TMJ disorder, they may write a prescription for a medication to help reduce swelling, relax your muscles, or relieve your pain.
Although most people think of BOTOX injections as a way to get rid of wrinkles, it has several medical uses. Using a purified form of botulism, BOTOX injections can be placed in the jaw to temporarily relax the muscles. BOTOX injections should be performed by an experienced New York City dentist and will need to be performed every few months to maintain results.
End jaw pain with TMJ therapy
If you have pain in your jaw or other symptoms of TMJ disorder, schedule an appointment with your dentist in New York City to get a diagnosis and treatment. At SmilesNY, we offer state-of-the-art disclusion time reduction (DTR) therapy as well as night guards and other TMJ therapies to fit the needs of our patients in New York City. Contact our office in Manhattan to schedule an examination and consultation so we can get started on your personalized TMJ disorder treatment plan.