The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the jawbone to the skull. Situated on either side of the face, they allow the jaw to function properly. If you have a TMJ disorder you may experience pain, clicking within the jaw, and you could struggle to fully open your mouth. However, your dentist can help you understand the causes of TMJ discomfort and recommend a treatment plan.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
If you are experiencing jaw pain, your dentist will look to identify the underlying triggers. One of the primary causes of TMJ pain is teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. Many people do not release they grind their teeth as it often occurs during sleep. However, one research study reported that 78% of people with a TMJ disorder also suffered with teeth grinding.
Stress and arthritis can also be reasons for TMJ issues, as can lifestyle factors, including:
- Eating hard foods
- Excessive chewing of gum
- Poor posture
- Misaligned bite
Initial Treatment Options
Your dentist will look to apply conservative treatment methods initially. As stress can be a trigger for a TMJ disorder as well as a trigger for teeth grinding, your dentist may recommend relaxation techniques. These techniques are used to try and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Jaw exercises which relax and strengthen the jaw muscles may also be recommend by your dentist. However, if lifestyle factors are deemed to be a contributory factor you will be asked to make changes. This could include eating softer foods, avoiding chewing gum, avoiding nail biting and improving your posture.
If TMJ discomfort persists or an underlying cause is not immediately apparent, you may require an X-ray or scan to diagnose the issue. Such additional diagnostic tests can be used to see if TMJ pain is caused by a condition like arthritis, or possibly by a tumor. Potential treatments include:
- physical therapy
- an oral splint to re-position the jaw
- corticosteroid injection
It is estimated over ten million Americans have a TMJ disorder of some form. However, you do not have to put up with the discomfort caused by a TMJ disorder. Once diagnosed there are treatment options to help ease your TMJ pain and remedy a disorder within the jaw joints, most of which are non-invasive. If you are suffering with jaw pain book an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options.