TMJ and Jaw Pain
What is TMJ and how can it be treated?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the temporal bones of the skull, which are located in front of each ear. Problems with the muscles and bone in this area are known as TMD or Temporomandibular Dysfunction.
Causes of TMD
TMD can be caused by a variety of sources such as:
- clenching or grinding the teeth
- arthritis or other internal changes
- previous injury
Symptoms of TMD
TMD can have multiple symptoms:
- popping or clicking in the joint
- locking up when opening
- muscles pain
- jaw pain
- sensitive teeth due to cracks or enamel loss
Self-care Treatment for TMD
Symptoms of TMD can often be relieved by modification of the diet and habits. Self-care practices such as:
- eating soft foods
- applying ice or moist heat
- avoiding extreme jaw movements (such as wide yawning and gum chewing)
- muscle relaxants
- massage therapy
Occlusal Guard (“Biteguard”)
While patients do not always feel discomfort in the face, attrition of the enamel is a sign that the TMJ is under stress and treatment is indicated. Chronic stress on the teeth can lead to sensitivity, worn enamel, and broken teeth or dental work. To protect dental enamel and restorations in the mouth, an occlusal guard is recommended when signs or symptoms of TMD are present. Using our digital scanner, a custom fitted appliance is made to protect the teeth at nighttime when the teeth undergo maximum forces. For most patients, regular use of an occlusal guard results in significant relief of symptoms.
Trigger Point Therapy
For patients who clench during the daytime, Trigger Point Therapy can be used to relax the over-worked muscles. Injections can be used to relieve tendon headaches and jaw pain associated with clenching from TMD. This approach provides great relief in facial pain- be sure to ask about it at your next visit.
For extreme cases, surgery can be performed by an oral surgeon, but this is typically a last resort.