The temporomandibular joint is a hinge joint that joins your jaw bone to the temporal bones located at the side of the skull. Almost all our oral functions involve the TMJ, as this joint lets you move your jaw up and down and side-to-side. If this joint is not functioning properly, you may encounter pain or difficulty while talking, biting, chewing, and yawning. Some people may also experience painful clicking or popping at the jaw or a change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together. When the TMJ suffers inflammation due to extreme trauma or physical strain, it can lead to pain and discomfort every time you move the lower jaw and can result in temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
It is crucial to identify and treat the condition in the early stages itself; otherwise, this could hinder the jaw's movement and can negatively affect your day-to-day activities. Therapists can treat TMD by using a combination of manual techniques and strengthening exercises to restore the natural movements of your jaw and reduce pain.
How does TMJ disorder occur?
The reasons for TMD can be an injury to the jaw, head, or neck, grinding/clenching of the teeth, injury to the tissues surrounding TMJ, and even stress. When you frequently snack, chew gum, grind your teeth, etc., the TMJ will suffer pressure, and when this happens quite often, it will end up damaging the tissues. Bruxism or the subconscious grinding of the teeth, especially during sleep, can lead to worn-out tooth surfaces, inflamed TMJ, pain in the jaws, etc. Improper posture while sleeping can also cause unwanted stress on the TMJ, leading to TMD overtime.
The signs and symptoms of TMD include:
- Popping sound when you move the lower jaw
- Ringing sound in the ear
- Inflammation of the tissues around the TMJ
- Swelling of the TMJ
- Restricted movement of the lower jaw
- Discomfort while chewing food
- Frequent headaches, especially during the morning
Massaging the facial joints and surrounding tissues regularly can help release stress and protect them from strain. Mentioned here are some methods that can treat TMD effectively:
- Avoid frequent use of chewing gums and snacking to avoid more stress on the muscles and tissues near the TMJ
- Follow a softer diet, as chewing hard foods can put more stress on the TMJ and teeth
- Check whether you have bruxism or sleep apnea and get it treated at the earliest using a bruxism guard.
At Wellness Centered Dentistry, we offer innovative TMD therapy treatment to correct this oral health issue. Our dentists would suggest a customized mouthguard that would prevent the contact between the teeth from the upper and lower jaws, eliminating the chance for wear of teeth and reducing the stress applied to the TMJs. If this treatment method isn't providing relief, jaw surgery would be the last resort option to treat the condition.
If you're having jaw pain and hear a clicking or popping sound, call or schedule an appointment online to set up an appointment with Dr. Hsu.