Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) causes quite a bit of pain and discomfort for people who suffer from it. However, at first, a person may not realize that TMJ is the problem. This is symptoms can include headaches, earaches, and sensitive teeth—all of which could be caused by other conditions, like migraines and sinus pressure.
To better understand TMJ, and how to treat it, people need the information to determine if it could be causing problems.
The temporomandibular joints in the jaw allow the opening and closing of the mouth. They are located on each side of the head and help with chewing and speaking. The area has muscles, ligaments and a disc between the ball and socket of the joint as well that also assist in jaw movement.
Any problems that prevent this system from working together smoothly can result in the painful condition known as TMJ. Several conditions and habits can cause pain in the jaw area and joint disorder.
- Jaw injury
- Dislocation of the jaw
- Arthritis of jaw joint
- Bruxism (grinding teeth)
- Teeth clenching when stressed
An orthodontist can help patients determine if TMJ is causing their pain. These dentists specialize in facial growth and development. They diagnose and treat conditions like TMJ, a bad bite, and poor jaw alignment.
An orthodontist examination checks for muscle tenderness, joint movement difficulty as well as a cracking or popping of the jaw. Based on the examination, the orthodontist can treat the patient or make a referral to another dentist or physician for further treatment options.
Treatment for TMJ depends on the cause. The doctor or dentist can come up with a treatment plan that may include:
- Jaw exercises to strengthen muscles
- A bite plate or night guard to prevent grinding and clenching teeth
- Medications for anxiety or to relax muscles
- Over the counter medications
In some cases, the orthodontist may recommend reshaping teeth, fixing bite alignment, or other orthodontic treatment.
To help ease the pain of TMJ, patients can eat soft foods and try meditation or other relaxation techniques. People with TMJ should not chew gum as this puts more work and stress on the joint. Alternating heat and ice packs are a good way to help with pain as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.