The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is the “hinge” that your jaw slides along to open and close your mouth. Many people suffer from a disorder of this joint, called TMD, that can interfere with proper function and cause pain, clicking, headaches and more.
Some factors of pain in the TMJ are stress, genetics, arthritis or other injury due to accidents.
Some people are born predisposed to TMJ issues, and although it affects both sexes, women are typically diagnosed more often than men.
Arthritis can contribute to pain in your jaw joint. Over time and years of wear and tear, the joint, like any in your body, exhibits sign of wear. Usually affecting older individuals, joint dysfunction caused by arthritis can also be caused by gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Straining and tightening your jaw muscles can put pressure on your joint, and you may not even realize it. You may also be clenching or grinding your teeth during sleep which puts undue strain on your TMJ.
Relieving the pain
There are some excellent methods for relieving pain in your joint, so the musculature can begin to heal and the swelling of the tissues surrounding the TMJ itself can reduce their inflammation. Chewing soft foods, applying hot and cold compresses, “swallowing” your yawns, and trying to reduce stress through meditation and massage can all help alleviate the symptoms of a swollen joint. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help, as can physical therapy, for more chronic situations.
Some patients wear a guard over their teeth at night to help prevent damage to the joint and their teeth, if the happen to be nighttime bruxers (grinding their teeth).
Sometimes the need for dental reconstruction is the only solution for removing the cause of strain on the jaw joint. Missing teeth and crooked teeth can be contributing factors to your symptoms and dental treatment such as orthodontics can help in some cases. This allows “perfect” bite to be found and can remove stress from other areas of the mouth. Crowns, bridges, and dentures are also ways that a bite can be altered to reduce strain on your TMJ.
If you feel pain that you may suspect is caused by your TMJ, contact Dr. Lipe for an oral evaluation. Some of these symptoms are difficulty opening your mouth widely, feeling tired in your face (like you’ve been chewing for hours), experiencing tenderness or pain in your teeth, jaw joint area, face, ears, neck, head and/or shoulders, difficulty chewing, getting your jaw stuck closed or open, swelling of the sides of your face and difficulty speaking.
In need of immediate care?
Dr. Lipe provides emergency phone consultation services after working hours and on weekends. Call (303) 744-0600