According to many people, mouth and jaw pain are some of the worst one can experience. Not only does pain in the oral cavity keep you from eating the foods you want, it can also make something as simple as speaking frustrating. Having pain or clicking when opening or closing your mouth could just mean a sore jaw. However, when this pain is persistent and ongoing, it could be a more severe condition called TMJ.
What is TMJ?
TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, is a condition that causes pain in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. It is also sometimes referred to as 'TMD.' TMJ has many causes, though sometimes the origin is unknown.
TMJ is characterized by the following:
- aching pain and discomfort surrounding the jaw and/or ear
- difficulty chewing
- difficulty opening or closing the mouth completely
- aching pain around the face and ear regions
- locking of the jaw joint
- clicking or a sensation of bones grating together while opening and closing the mouth or chewing
If one or more of these symptoms persists long-term, you should see your dentist.
TMJ may also cause headaches and migraines, which are often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Triggers can include clenching or grinding of the teeth or existing dental complications.
Where does TMJ come from?
TMJ dysfunction can originate from physical damage to the jaw joint itself, deterioration of the disk inside of the joint, the joint moving out of place, or damage caused by arthritis, among other causes.
How is TMJ treated?
Luckily, TMJ dysfunction is a manageable condition. For mild cases, at home treatment is often effective. Over the counter drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can help relieve pain and swelling. Eating soft foods and using hot or cold compresses on the sore jaw muscles also helps in alleviating pain. Many sufferers also find that reducing stress helps with lowering instances of habitual jaw clenching.
Sometimes, TMJ dysfunction can become severe. Dental work may be needed to even out the surface of the teeth so the jaw rests more naturally and biting and chewing become easier. Often, a splint or night guard helps to relieve jaw tension and helps to keep sufferers from grinding the teeth during their sleep.
Heat therapy, radio-wave therapy and even laser therapy are sometimes needed in more severe cases. If these therapies do not prove to be effective, the last resort is usually a surgical procedure. These procedures can vary from a dentist inserting needles into the jaw to flush out the joint, too, in the most serious cases, full open-joint surgery.
Any of these treatments for TMJ pain could be beneficial to you. Dr. Sean W Cullinan of Glenview Family Dental and his team in Glenview, IL are devoted to supplying professional, personalized care to patients in need. Contact our office to make an appointment today!