When considering the most used and important joints in your body, you probably think of your knees or shoulder. However, there is another joint that we rely on even more. The TMJ, or the temporomandibular joint, is what connects your lower jaw to your skull on either side of your face. This important set of joints allows you to open and close your mouth or bite down. The TMJ, as well as the nerves, muscles and tissues that support it, gets worked countless times a day as you eat, speak, laugh and even yawn. Unfortunately, the TMJ can become inflamed, irritated or strained – which leads to many disruptive symptoms of TMD (temporomandibular disorder).
TMJ problems don’t always stay within the jaw or even the head. That’s why it can be confusing to diagnose. To help you determine if you are experiencing the symptoms of a jaw disorder and how to treat it, here are some FAQ on TMD:
What are the symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
The symptoms of TMJ disorder (or TMD) can vary from person to person, and they can range from a mild annoyance to a severe impairment of the jaw. According to Delta Dental, the symptoms of TMD can include the following:
- pain in or around the ear
- headaches and neck aches
- tenderness of the jaw or jaw muscles
- jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon
- jaw pain when chewing, biting or yawning
- difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
- sensitive teeth when no other dental problems can be found
What causes TMD?
Temporomandibular Disorder can develop due to a variety of conditions. For some, the irritation occurs if the jaw twists improperly during opening, closing or side-to-side movements. Other patients may suffer from TMD after a sudden jaw injury. However, TMD is most commonly traced back to bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching), arthritis or a misaligned bite.
Does stress cause TMD?
In many cases, stress does play a major role in TMJ issues due to the connection between stress and anxiety and bruxism. Many patients find that they clench their teeth while they sleep during times of high stress. Over time, this can trigger inflammation, soreness and stiffness in the TMJ.
How can a dentist help?
Treatment for TMD begins with an accurate diagnosis of its cause. Jaw symptoms may be relieved by realigning the bite with orthodontic therapy or by wearing a nighttime mouthguard to prevent bruxism during sleep. If you suspect that your TMJ is irritated or not functioning properly, please call Family Smiles Dental to ensure your jaw symptoms don’t threaten your quality of life.
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