It is a pain that affects 1 out of every 3 people. Second only to lower back pain, Temporomandibular Joint, or more commonly TMJ, is a musculoskeletal pain disorder that can wreak havoc on your daily life. The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the side of the skull via the temporal bone. It is easy to see why this joint can become damaged, weakened, fatigued, and stressed over time when it is responsible for opening and closing the mouth.
While TMJ can affect anyone, some are predisposed genetically to a weak jaw structure. Family dental history is something to discuss with your dentist at your next visit if you have a history of jaw or joint disorders in your family and are not experiencing symptoms yourself. For those who are suffering from the pain that comes from TMJ, this blog is for you.
Was it Trauma or Genetics?
Surprisingly, researchers and medical professionals are still researching the causes of TMJ as they once thought that TMJ was a result of some kind of trauma or injury to the jaw itself. However, with more researchers publishing studies, like the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, dental professionals are beginning to see a link between genetics, hormones, and this painful condition.
While they certainly do not rule out jaw trauma when diagnosing TMJ, more thorough examinations include the new hypothesis that hormones can somehow play a role. In addition, with recent studies showing that women are more often affected than men, every patient diagnosed with TMJ can offer data for researchers.
The Symptoms Are Wide-Ranging
Is it a tooth infection? Am I just stressed? Did someone hit me in the face, and I did not notice? These are a few questions you might ask yourself when experiencing TMJ pain for the first time. Many sufferers will come to the consensus that symptoms are mainly pain in and around the jaw, but other common signs go along with this condition as well:
- Acute or chronic pain in the jaw, face, and area of the mouth and neck
- Jaw stiffening or difficulty opening the mouth
- Slow movement of the mouth or locking of the jaw
- Abnormal clicking or popping sounds when opening and closing the mouth
- A noticeable difference in crossbite, overbite, or underbite
- Headaches, migraines, ear and neck pain
- Anxiety, mood swings, and behavior changes like trouble sleeping and irritability due to pain
While this list is not exhaustive, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our providers at Stetson Hills Dental if you feel like you may be suffering from TMJ.
Tips for Relieving TMJ Pain at Home
Depending on the severity of your TMJ, you may be able to relieve your pain at home without extensive dental help, physical therapy, or steroid injections (the next steps for more severe cases). Here are some tips we put together:
- Every 20 minutes, alternate hot and cold compresses along the jawline until the pain subsides.
- Relieve the inflammation by taking ibuprofen
- Try an over the counter mouth guard to wear at night to see if it provides relief during daytime hours
- Eat softer, less chewy foods and avoid things that require excessive jaw movement, such as gum.
- Practice these TMJ exercises a couple of times during the day as long as it does not increase the discomfort.
Any of our excellent dental providers at Stetson Hills Dental can help address your concerns and put a plan in place to help alleviate your TMJ symptoms. We are also proud to offer emergency dental services, routine care, and specialized procedures to new and returning patients.