Affecting approximately 10 million Americans, TMJ is an acronym often used to describe disorders of the temporomandibular joint. It’s the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. One temporomandibular joint is located on each side of your face, just in front of your ears. Also known as TMD, temporomandibular joint disorders affect your jaw’s ability to move.
TMJ disorder can cause severe pain when you talk, chew, or open your mouth. If you have TMJ, you might suffer from pain, swelling, or tenderness in your jaw, face, or neck, or around your ears. TMJ can be accompanied by popping or clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth.
TMJ may affect one side or both sides of your face. Sometimes, your jaw may get stuck in an open or closed position with severe TMJ. While the exact cause of TMJ can be hard to pinpoint, there are a number of risk factors that may indicate you’re more likely to get TMJ.
At Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville, Dr. Patti Swaintek-Lamb and her team want to help you understand TMJ. Here are a few of the most common factors that contribute to temporomandibular disorders and some treatment options available to you.
1. Teeth grinding
Most people grind their teeth from time to time. But when you grind or clench your teeth on a regular basis, it can cause problems for your teeth and jaw. People with chronic teeth grinding may do it when they’re awake or asleep, and you may not be aware that you’re doing it. Stress can cause you to clench your teeth and tighten your facial muscles more than usual.
Chronic teeth grinding or clenching puts increased pressure on your jaw joints and may lead to TMJ disorders.The increased pressure and friction that frequent teeth grinding and clenching brings can irritate your jawbone. This overuse can lead to TMJ pain and discomfort.
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. You can develop arthritis in any joint, including the jaw. There are many types of arthritis, but the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs over the years as the cushioning cartilage between the bones of your joints wears away. Your bones can rub together, causing inflammation and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition where your body attacks itself and targets your joints. It also leads to joint deterioration and pain.
Arthritis in your jaw can cause TMJ as the joint becomes inflamed and painful. Treatment for TMJ related to arthritis is often similar to treatment of arthritis elsewhere in the body.
Injury to your jaw or the muscles in your face or neck can lead to TMJ. When you chew, talk, and open your mouth, your jawbone, teeth, and tongue all work together. Injury can affect the interaction between your jaw and the rest of your face.
Injuries like whiplash or a blow to the head can cause damage that affects your jaw. If you’ve suffered an injury or you have headaches or pain in your face or neck, you may have a TMJ disorder.
4. Misalignment of the teeth or jaw
Similar to TMJ disorders brought on by injury, misalignment of your teeth or jaw can interfere with your mouth’s ability to function normally. If you notice discomfort or changes in your bite, or you find chewing is suddenly more difficult, a misalignment may be to blame.
Misalignments affect the interaction between your jaw and teeth and how you chew, which can cause pain and lead to complications like TMJ disorders. If you experience discomfort when opening and closing your mouth, don’t ignore it.
5. Gum chewing
If you chew gum frequently, you can develop TMJ. TMJ disorders can be a result of overuse that brings joint pain and stiffness. Constantly chewing often leads to overuse of the jaw and the symptoms associated with TMJ, including pain and headaches.
TMJ disorders that develop due to excessive gum chewing are often the easiest to treat. Not chewing gum gives your jaw a rest, and avoiding overusing your jaw can help relieve TMJ symptoms.
Dr. Swaintek-Lamb can diagnose TMJ conditions with a physical exam. She may request X-rays or other medical imaging to confirm your diagnosis. While some cases of TMJ may go away on their own, some patients require treatment.
Medications like muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories can help treat TMJ pain. Physical therapy, learning relaxation techniques, or making lifestyle changes can address the cause of TMJ disorders without the need for medication. To find the right treatment for your TMJ disorder, make an appointment at Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville today.