TMJ Disorder – The Basics

What is TMJ?

TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint, and typically refers to the disorder associated with this joint. The joint itself acts like a sliding mechanism and attaches your jawbone and skull. This joint can be compromised for several reasons and results in discomfort and pain.

Symptoms of TMJ

There are a variety of symptoms one can experience with TMJ disorder. A person can experience some or all of them.

  • Tender or painful jaw
  • Throbbing aching facial pain
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Pain that radiates up to ear
  • Locking joint making opening the mouth difficult
  • Clicking or grating sound can occur when moving the joint
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Pain radiating to neck and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

If someone experiences only the clicking of the joint without pain, medical treatment is probably not necessary. However, if pain is experienced or limited mobility occurs, then a trip to a dentist is in order. A dentist who specializes in treating TMJ disorders is preferable (see our top rated dental services in San Diego). There are specific treatments available to those suffering with TMJ, and they are best able to handle it.

TMJ patient

TMJ Patient

Causes of TMJ Disorder

The TMJ bones are covered in cartilage and separated by a small disk that acts like a shock absorber. Some of the things that can cause TMJ pain are:

  • The disk can wear down or slips out of place
  • Arthritis sets in
  • An injury damages the joint
  • Infections

Sometimes there is no obvious cause for the symptoms and pain management and treatment for symptoms is all that can be done. Women who are between the ages of 20-40 years seem to be at risk the most for developing TMJ issues, but the reason for this is unknown.

Treatments for TMJ

Some TMJ flare ups can be self-treated. Eating soft foods, applying hot and cold therapy, and avoiding extreme opening of mouth are some things that can be done to alleviate symptoms.

Conservative treatments are recommended first and avoiding structural changes is felt to be the best option.

Bite guards are an option for those people who are experiencing teeth grinding at night. This protects the tooth surfaces from wear and tear. Relaxation techniques or muscle relaxers can be employed to reduce stress experienced by the individual.

Antidepressants, sedatives or over the counter pain meds can be used to treat the pain as well.

If the teeth are found to be misaligned and considered a factor in the TMJ event, they can be realigned in the hopes that it will resolve the cause of the pain.

Anyone suffering from TMJ should contact their San Diego dentist to discuss what options are best for them. Each patient’s experience is different and their treatment should be customized to their specific needs and concerns. There are many options available and there is no reason to suffer any longer with TMJ pain.

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