We often think of dentists as primarily concerned with teeth, but our concern goes far deeper. Dental offices take care of healthcare for everything involved in good oral health and how it can affect your total physical wellbeing. This includes monitoring the gums, jawbone, air passages, and the temporomandibular joints.
What Is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a highly-flexible connection point on either side of your face. The mandible (your lower jaw) is connected to the temple just in front of the center of your ear. If you have ever bitten into something especially chewy or crunchy and felt the pressure of it in the side of your face, that is the TMJ.
The TMJs are very important to almost everything you do with your mouth—such as biting, chewing, speaking, and making facial expressions. For this reason, it’s important to keep them healthy.
Unfortunately, due to its high mobility, its high workload, and its exposed location on the side of the face, TMJs are susceptible to damage or injury in a number of ways.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD)
TMDs come in all shapes and sizes, and can be caused by sporting injuries, car accidents, disease of the tendons, arthritis, chronic tooth grinding or clenching, bite misalignment, severe stress, anxiety, and more.
Some of the most common symptoms of a TMD are:
Pain | Any pain or tenderness from a TMD can be located in your jaw joint, your neck and shoulders, in or around your ears, or even in the back of your head. You may also experience pain while trying to chew or bite.
Weakness | You may experience fatigue in the joint area, and the associated muscles and tendons.
Swelling | If you experience swelling on the side of your face or around your ears, it may be TMD-related.
Toothaches | If your TMJ is injured, you may feel pressure, tenderness, or pain in your teeth that does not have an obvious source.
Headaches | As with toothaches, you may experience headaches that seem to have no obvious or reasonable cause. This can be especially true if the ache is not directly near the TMJ itself. TMJ headaches can spread tension to the neck and shoulders.
Dizziness | TMJ issues affect the ears, which in turn can affect your balance. If you are feeling oddly dizzy, along with any of the other listed symptoms, you may have a TMD.
Tinnitus | Buzzing or ringing in the ears is another common symptom of overtaxing the TMJ and the surrounding tendons and muscles.
Locked Jaw | If your jaw locks in place, making it difficult to open or close your mouth, the TMJ is a very likely source of the issue.
Clicking | You may experience a clicking, popping, or grating sensation when opening and closing your mouth.
Because of the wide variety of causes, no two people will have exactly the same experience with a damaged TMJ. That’s why Mountain Springs Dental makes it a priority to treat any TMD situation with individual focus and attention.
If you have any of the symptoms above, or suspect you may have a TMD, call our office and make an appointment to discuss your options. In the meantime, there are things you can do to prevent further pain in your jaw and face.
Tips for TMD Relief
- Sleep on your back. Sleeping on your back is the best position to prevent pain with a TMD. Support your neck with pillows, and avoid sleeping on your stomach as much as possible.
- Reduce stress. Stress can create a lot of tension in your jaw, which in turn creates pain for you. Try meditating or yoga to focus your mind and relax your face.
- Skip the chewing gum. The repetitive motion of chewing can cause further pain, so leave your chewing until you have to eat. In addition, it might be a good idea to avoid crunchy foods, or foods that require a lot of chewing.
- Watch out for bad habits. Common bad habits like nail biting or grinding your teeth often make TMJ pain worse. If you have jaw pain, now’s a good time to quit those habits.
- Eat softer foods. Give your jaw a break! Foods like yogurt and scrambled eggs are easier on your TMJ. Try integrating them into your diet to prevent further pain.
- Avoid yawning. If you have TMJ pain, you might notice a popping or grinding sound in your jaw when you yawn. It is not always painful, but it is not something you want to hear. When you feel a yawn coming on, put your fist under your jaw and push upwards. This upward pressure will prevent your mouth from opening too wide.
The little things you do every day can make a difference in your pain levels, but there is no reason to wait until things get worse to see a dentist and set a treatment plan.
TMD Treatment at Mountain Springs Dental
Whatever the cause and symptoms of a TMD, the key to healing is allowing the affected joint to rest from whatever is stressing it. The most common treatment for accomplishing this is an oral appliance for TMD.
What Is an Oral Appliance?
An oral appliance is the first line of defense in treating a temporomandibular joint disorder. The device itself is similar to a mouthguard, both in appearance and function. An oral appliance encourages the muscles to work properly, reposition your lower jaw and generally reduce any overall stress on the jaw.
An oral appliance is part of a gentle and reversible treatment plan. It is a great place to begin treating your TMJ disorder, and it can help alleviate whatever pain or discomfort you are dealing with.
Oral appliances are custom-made by your dentist and the Mountain Springs dental team to meet your needs and fit your mouth. Using radiographs, listening to the symptoms you are experiencing, and a complete clinical evaluation, your dentist can create the right kind of oral appliance for you.
How Will My Oral Appliance Affect Me?
Oral appliances should affect your life tremendously by relieving pain and tension caused by TMD. You’ll wear your appliance while you sleep. While you are wearing the appliance, it will push your jaw slightly forward to prevent your back molars from clenching—thus reducing stress and tension in your TMJ.
How Can I Get an Oral Appliance?
By calling our office, Dr. Garner at Mountain Springs Dental can provide you with the help you need for your TMJ disorder. Once you meet with us for a TMJ consultation, we can create your individualized treatment plan.
Getting an oral appliance fitted is a simple, pain-free process. Our team will use digital scans and x-rays to create a customized oral appliance to meet your needs. Dr. Garner will let you know how long to wear your device, and when, as well as follow up with you to ensure that the oral appliance is making a difference in your pain levels.
Call Us Today for TMD Pain and Headache Relief
If you are experiencing prolonged pain and discomfort, contact us right away for a TMJ consultation. We will waste no time in trying to narrow down the details of your specific case and get you the relief you need!