Find the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder and get relief from your jaw pain.
Jaw pain, headaches, chipped teeth—these are just a few of the problems an untreated TMJ disorder can cause. Let’s take a look at what a TMJ disorder is, common symptoms, and what might have caused your pain to begin with.
What is a TMJ disorder?
A TMJ (or temporomandibular joint) disorder affects the function of the joint in the jaw as well as the chewing muscle within the jaw and face.
TMJ disorders are the most common type of temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and affect about 15% of the adult population. Interestingly, women are diagnosed with a TMD far more often than men, at a rate of nine to one.
How can I tell if I have a TMJ disorder?
TMJ disorders generally cause discomfort localized around the joint, but jaw pain isn’t the only symptom.
The most common symptoms of a TMJ disorder include:
- Pain around the jaw, sometimes spreading to the neck and shoulders.
- A “locked jaw” feeling and limited mobility when opening the mouth.
- Tinnitus-like ringing or a feeling of pressure in the ears.
- Unexplained headaches or migraines.
- Audible clicking of the jaw when eating or speaking.
- A sensation of popping when eating or speaking.
- Muscle spasms in the jaw and cheek area.
- Unusual wearing pattern on teeth.
- Unexplained cracking or chipping of the teeth.
Many individuals experience multiple symptoms at once. The symptoms may come and go or be present on a daily basis.
What caused my TMJ disorder?
The exact cause of an individual TMJ disorder is sometimes a mystery.
Despite the prevalence of TMJ pain, doctors and dentists tend to have a difficult time figuring out what triggers symptoms in patients. This is largely due to the number of factors connected to this specific jaw pain, which include physical, behavioral, and even psychological causes.
With that being said, dentists like Dr. Cooley Bentz often identify one of these 4 problems as the cause of patients’ TMJ pain.
Injury to the TMJ Joint
An impact or injury to the side of the face near the TMJ joint can easily cause damage. Similarly, a general impact or injury to the jaw or cheek can also lead to symptoms of a TMJ disorder. In some cases, patients may have fully healed from their original injury only to have TMJ pain develop later on.
A Misaligned Bite
Crooked teeth lead to bite misalignment, a problem that’s much more than just an aesthetic issue. A misaligned bite may cause you to chew unevenly or subconsciously move your jaw in a manner that prevents your teeth from meeting. This puts stress on the TMJ joint and gradually begins to cause chronic pain.
Cartilage Damage from Arthritis
Arthritis and osteoporosis can impact the health of a person’s jaw structure. A TMJ disorder may develop from bone loss and cartilage damage in the jaw and TMJ joint. Teeth are also affected and could lead to a bite misalignment as well, further worsening TMJ pain.
Chronic Bruxism or Clenching
Bruxism (or grinding of the teeth) may also be accompanied by jaw clenching. Both of these problems can either cause a TMJ disorder or may develop as a symptom. Chronic bruxism is often caused by stress and occurs subconsciously. Habitual bruxism and clenching can also occur at night while sleeping.
What treatment options are available for TMJ pain?
There are a few very effective treatment options for managing TMJ pain. Depending on your level of pain and the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder, one of these options may be a better choice over others.
Improving Your Lifestyle Habits
Regardless of what has caused your TMJ pain, one thing everyone can benefit from is improving lifestyle habits that impact the TMJ joint. Practice keeping a relaxed face, especially during stressful situations. Avoid chewing gum throughout the day. Be mindful that you aren’t favoring one side of your mouth while chewing. Good posture will also go a long way in relieving pain, especially if you often slouch and rest your chin on your hand while sitting.
Mouthguards/Nightguards for Bruxism
Mouthguards or nightguards are a great choice for relieving bruxism—both to treat it as a cause or a symptom. Since bruxism often occurs at night, these specialized nightguards you wear while sleeping ensures you aren’t damaging your teeth or aggravating your TMJ joint.
Straightening Teeth with Orthodontics
Bite misalignment can be remedied through orthodontic care. Straightening and repositioning your teeth can help you achieve a proper bite and gradually alleviate your TMJ pain.
In cases of severe TMJ pain or a complicated TMJ disorder, oral surgery may be the only option to get permanent relief. Your dentist will be able to guide you towards the type of surgery that will be able to address the underlying cause.
Schedule an evaluation of your TMJ pain with Dr. Cooley Bentz.
If you suspect you have a TMJ disorder or you’re simply experiencing unusual jaw pain or headaches, it’s time to book an appointment. Dr. Cooley Bentz will be able to evaluate your TMJ pain, begin diagnosing the cause, and find the right pain relief methods for you.
You can schedule your appointment today by calling our office or filling out this online form.