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Jaw Joint Disorder – or TMJ is a commonly used misnomer for the technical term “temporomandibularjoint disorders”.

TMJ is a very painful problem that occurs when the joint that connects your jaw with your skull becomes loose or “dis-jointed”.  It affects the joints involved in opening and closing your mouth (tempomandibular joints).  Some have described it as “your worst headache, earache, and toothache combined”.  TMJ is also called jaw-joint disorder or temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

Medical scientists don’t really know what causes TMJ because it can include any combination of at least 15 different problems:

  • Hormones – women get TMJ far more often than men
  • Pregnancy
  • Reheumatoid arthritis
  • Lyme disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Chronic skin disorder
  • Arthritis
  • Trauma to the joint, hips, back, neck, knees
  • A habit of teeth grinding
  • A habit of jaw clenching
  • Poor posture
  • Stress
  • Impact to the chin or jaw bone
  • Whiplash

Although TMJ is a difficult problem to understand, more than 80 percent of patients get TMJ pain relief on their own once they understand some of the easy home-remedies.  If you have tried the home remedies and the pain persists, call us for an evaluation.  There are some medical options for TMJ treatment like surgery that may help.

Lockjaw / TMD / TMJ Symptoms

  • Has your face been hurting around the neck, jaw-joint area, maybe even the shoulders and around the ear?
  • Does it hurt when you speak, laugh or open your mouth wide?
  • Does your jaw get “stuck” when your mouth is open or closed?
  • Can you hear or feel clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw-joint area when you open or close your mouth or when you chew?  Sometimes this can be painful, but if your condition is just beginning it may not be painful.
  • Do you feel tired in the face?
  • Sometimes when you are chewing do you suddenly have an uncomfortable bite as if your upper or lower teeth don’t fit properly in your mouth anymore?
  • Do you have swelling on the side of your face, near the jaw-joint?
  • Some people can also experience toothaches,  TMJ headaches, pain in the neck and upper shoulder area
  • You may feel dizzy, have problem hearing or have ringing in your ears (tinnitus).

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms our dentist may be able to help.  Give us a call at 519-893-2790.

TMJ Treatment At Home

  • Try over-the-counter pain relief medications or anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve muscle pain and swelling.
  • Ice packs can help.  Put an ice-pack on the sore area of the jaw and temple for ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Apply a warm towel to the sore area for five minutes after doing TMJ exercises like gently stretching your jaw muscles in different directions.  Be sure to get the exercises approved by your dentist first so you don’t make the condition worse.  Start by doing this once or twice a day and gradually build up to several times a day.
  • Eat soft foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, soup, scrambled eggs, fish, cooked fruits and vegetables, beans, and grains to your menu.
  • Cut foods into small pieces so you chew less.
  • Skip hard, crunchy foods (like pretzels and raw carrots), chewy foods (like caramels and taffy), and thick or large bites that require you to open wide.
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements like yawning, yelling, loud singing or anything that makes you keep your mouth open wide.
  • Avoid chewing gum (don’t do things that can make your jaw muscles tired).
  • Don’t rest your chin on your hand.
  • Don’t hold the phone between your shoulder and ear.
  • Practice good posture to reduce neck and facial pain. The February 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that posture training reduced symptoms by 42% in a group of patients who had suffered for at least six months.
  • Keep your teeth slightly apart as often as you can to give your jaw muscles a break.
  • If you find yourself unconsciously grinding your teeth, try putting your tongue between your teeth to control clenching or grinding in your waking hours.
  • Learn relaxation techniques to help loosen up your jaw.
  • Your dentist may be able to suggest physical therapy or massage you can do at home.

What Kind Of TMJ Treatment Can A Dentist Provide?

If your efforts at treating yourself don’t give you enough TMJ pain relief, here are some ways a dentist may be able to help:

  • After an evaluation, a dentist may decide to create a special mouthpiece called a “splint”.  This can help your jaw muscles to relax.  If you clench or grind your teeth at night, a splint can provide relief for tired jaw muscles during sleep.
  • The equilibrium in your tooth surface might need a tune-up.  A dentist may decide that a permanent realignment or subtle re-shaping of the teeth is necessary.
  • An orthodontist may find that moving your teeth or the bony structures in your mouth would provide TMJ pain relief.
  • Sometimes TMJ surgery is the only option if all else fails.