Have you ever noticed a shifting in your jaw, near your ears, when you open and close your mouth? Perhaps you’ve heard a popping or clicking sound when you yawn? These experiences in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are fairly common and may be of little consequence if they do not occur frequently and are not accompanied by pain.
However, if you experience chronic jaw or facial pain, there may be more to the story. If you suffer from frequent tension headaches, migraines, or pain around the ears or temple, you may suffer from a condition called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
If you have unexplained pain in the jaw or frequent headaches, visit Every Smile Family Dentistry and Orthodontics for a TMJ disorder consultation. There are a number of treatments for this condition that can reduce pain and improve your quality of life. Contact our Chandler, AZ dental practice today at 480-732-7874 for an appointment, or ask about it at your next dental checkup.
What is TMJ disorder?
The temporomandibular joint is the joint located on both sides of your face, just under your ears. It connects your lower jaw to the rest of your head and is responsible for the smooth movement of your jaw when yawning, speaking, and chewing. When the joints become stressed, injured, or misaligned, it can result in a condition called TMJ disorder, or TMD.
Common symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Jaw pain
- Pain when biting and chewing
- Difficulty opening your mouth very wide
- A locked or stuck jaw
- Clicking, grating, or popping sounds when you open and close your mouth
- Facial pain
- Frequent tension headaches or migraines
- Pain in the shoulders and neck
- Ear pain and ringing in the ears
Causes of TMJ Disorder
Untreated malocclusion (misalignment) and bite issues, such as overbite and under bite, can result in problems with the jaw muscles and TMJ. When your teeth do not naturally align properly, yet must do so to effect the chewing necessary for eating, the jaw muscles can become overtaxed. The disparity between the position your jaw takes for eating and its position while at rest may cause the joint to become “confused” and may result in TMJ disorder symptoms. This is just one of the reasons we always recommend orthodontia for young patients with obvious malocclusion: to prevent such symptoms later in life.
Malocclusion is not the only cause of TMJ disorder. Injury to the face or jaw, arthritis, and disc erosion within the joint can also lead to dysfunction of the joint and muscles.
TMJ and Bruxism
TMJ disorder and bruxism often go hand in hand. If you know you have a tendency to clench your jaw or grind your teeth when you sleep, this may affect or intensify TMJ disorder symptoms. Talk with your dentist at your next visit, as symptoms and treatments for TMJ and bruxism are often interrelated.
When to Seek Treatment
Everyone can stress their temporomandibular joints from time to time. Stress, overuse, or sporadic jaw clenching can all cause occasional jaw soreness or popping when you open and close your mouth. If your jaw is making a noise, or you feel the joint shift when you open your mouth fully, this may be distressing. However, unless you are having recurrent episodes of pain or cannot open your mouth fully, you may not need to seek treatment.
If your experiences are infrequent, ask Dr. Lee or Dr. Kohler about it at your next six-month appointment. Something as simple as jaw-relaxation exercises may help you deal with occasional non-severe symptoms. If your symptoms are frequent or on-going and include pain or a lack of jaw mobility, a TMJ consultation should be scheduled as soon as possible.
TMJ Disorder Treatment at Every Smile
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, we encourage you to visit Every Smile Family Dentistry & Orthodontics of Chandler for high-quality treatment. Dr. Kohler, one of our skilled dentists, has received specialized training in treating TMJ disorder. Depending on the cause of your TMJ disorder, treatment may include lifestyle changes, jaw relaxation exercises, restorative dental care, a bite guard or night guard, or another type of treatment.
To learn more about TMJ treatment, please contact our Chandler dental office today at 480-732-7874. We look forward to hearing from you!