For a variety of reason your temporomandibular joint - frequently called TMJ - may cause you pain. When this occurs, it is referred to as TMJ disorder or dysfunction. You may have seen or heard this referred to as TMD.
What exactly is my TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. Temporal, as in temple area of skull; mandibular as in mandible, or lower jaw, joint as in it's where the head and jaw meet. Problems in this joint may be caused by a misalignment of the teeth, nighttime clenching/grinding, or trauma. Aside from the two bones that meet there, a cartilage disc buffers the bones and five muscles are involved in the area. If something goes wrong a good deal of trouble can result.
Problems in this area can cause:
Trouble/soreness in opening and closing the mouth
Clicking or popping of the jaw
Pain in the jaw muscles
Soreness in the area, sometimes extending to the face and neck
As soon as you feel pain or experience issues that you think may be associated with TMD, you should make an appointment with a dentist.
Why is my TMJ causing me pain?
There are many different theories as to why your TMJ may be causing you pain. Genetics, arthritis, stress, and injuries are some of the contributing factors that can cause problems with your TMJ and result in TMD.
Some people may be predisposed to TMD. Though both men and women are diagnosed as having TMD, it has been found to be diagnosed more frequently in women than men. Your bone structure and joints may also be contributing factors to TMD.
Over time, the inside of your temporomandibular joint may experience some wear. This might be due to the type of arthritis called osteoarthritis. Usually, this kind of arthritis affects older individuals more than younger ones. Other types of arthritic inflammation in your TMJ may be due to gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
Straining and tightening your jaw and facial muscles can put pressure on your TMJ and cause TMD. You may be unconsciously holding stress in your jaw and face that can also lead to teeth clenching or grinding.
Clenching or Grinding
Some people clench or grind their teeth throughout the day. It can become such a habit that it might go virtually unnoticed. You may even be clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep without knowing it.
A dislocation of the jaw can result in TMD. Some studies claim other traumas - like a sudden blow - may cause TMD as well. This would involve some sort of displacement or stress that results in TMD symptoms.
How can I relieve the pain caused by TMD?
Luckily, today there are many different options for treating all kinds of TMD. There are plenty of noninvasive and very advanced options to help manage or eliminate your pain associated with TMD.
Switching to a diet of soft foods may alleviate some pain you are experiencing associated with TMD.
Depending on your situation and pain level, we may recommend a hot/cold treatment routine to reduce pain.
There are over the counter and prescription medications that we may suggest you use to take care of your discomfort.
Massages, meditation, and stress reduction therapy may decrease the amount of pressure that is being placed on your TMJ and alleviate some pain.
Certain exercises may reduce your issues with your TMJ. It is important to consult a licensed professional before starting any therapy regime.
A night guard - or occlusal (bite) guard - is worn on your upper and lower teeth to prevent them from touching. This can reduce the negative effects of clenching or grinding at night. If need be, you might be recommended to wear a dental guard during the day.
Dental treatments for the condition can include low-level laser therapy, replacing missing teeth, moving teeth, adjusting the bite, etc. There is no one solution that is right for all cases until a diagnosis is determined. If left untreated, constant head and neck pain with an inability to comfortably eat may occur.
Dr. Skowronski works closely with medical professionals who specialize in TMD to deliver you the best treatments possible. For over 29 years she has treated patients with all sorts of TMJ issues. Sometimes the solutions are simple and quick, while other times they can be a bit more complicated.
If you’re concerned about your TMJ give Dr. Skowronski a call at (586) 566-3880. She is happy to find a time that works for you to come in and see her.
With Dr. Skowronski's extensive experience diagnosing and treating TMD, you can rest assure that you are in good hands.
In need of immediate care?
Dr. Skowronski provides emergency phone consultation services after working hours and on weekends. Call (586) 566-3880