Are You Living With Chronic TMJ Pain?

Living with chronic TMJ pain is unique to each person. Pain and other symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction can present a long-term challenge that disrupts many aspects of a healthy and active lifestyle. When you realize your pain is not going away in a few days, you may despair of finding a solution. However, many advancements in TMJ diagnosis and treatment offer more hope than ever for effectively managing chronic TMJ pain.

If you have jaw pain that lasts more than a few days, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive TMJ evaluation and treatment.

What Is TMJ Dysfunction?

When you think of your body’s joints, the ones that come to mind may be knees, hips, and shoulders. But you use no joints more each day than your temporomandibular joints. These joints connect your lower jaw to your skull and are essential for eating, speaking, and breathing. The muscles that control your TMJs work harmoniously to allow your jaw to move comfortably in all directions.

The TMJ is a complex joint made of muscles, bones, ligaments, and nerves. When one or more of these structures is damaged due to trauma, a medical condition such as arthritis, a habit such as grinding your teeth, or an improper bite, the joint does not function painlessly. This inflamed or irritated condition can last a few days or become chronic and last a lifetime.

What Are The Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction?

Lying close to the TMJ on each side is the trigeminal nerve, a major nerve in the face. The trigeminal nerve has connections throughout the head and neck that impact:

  • Chewing.

  • Speaking.

  • Swallowing.

  • Vision.

  • Teeth.

  • Sinuses.

Many dentists believe that the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction are due to irritation of the trigeminal nerve and referred pain throughout the head and neck. The symptoms of TMJ dysfunction can include:

  • Joint noises such as clicking or popping.

  • Headaches.

  • Jaw pain.

  • Dizziness.

  • Tinnitus.

  • Jaw locking open or closed.

  • Difficulty opening your mouth wide.

  • Earache.

  • Teeth not fitting together properly.

What Triggers TMJ Pain?

It is often difficult to diagnose the cause of TMJ. However, most cases result from inflamed or overworked jaw muscles. Several factors are common triggers of TMJ pain, such as:

  • Stress. If you are under stress, you tend to tighten your facial, jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles. These tense muscles can cause inflammation or irritation of the TMJ and result in pain and other TMJ symptoms.

  • Bruxism. Besides severely damaging your teeth, grinding your teeth can trigger TMJ pain by inflaming jaw muscles and placing excessive stress on the joints.

  • Habits. Chewing hard and nonfood items such as fingernails, ink pens, or ice are known to cause significant oral trauma, including TMJ dysfunction.

  • Hormonal changes. Joint inflammation, including the temporomandibular joints, often accompanies significant hormonal changes, such as in menopause and pregnancy.

  • Dehydration. The muscles and ligaments of the TMJ need sufficient hydration to function normally. Among the many reasons to drink enough water daily are the prevention of inflamed jaw muscles and TMJ symptoms.

How Is TMJ Dysfunction Treated?

Most TMJ pain eventually goes away on its own. However, the pain of chronic TMJ can become quite severe and debilitating. At-home treatments to mitigate the pain include heat or cold packs, eating a soft diet, and taking over-the-counter analgesics. Some cases, however, require professional dental treatments, such as:

  • A custom-made dental night guard.

  • Braces to correct bite misalignment.

  • Dental fillings and crowns to repair damaged teeth.

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to relax joint muscles.

  • Ultrasound to alleviate soreness and improve joint movement.

  • TMJ surgery for severe cases of TMJ dysfunction.

Schedule Appointment if You’re Living with Chronic TMJ Pain

Chronic TMJ Dysfunction can alter your daily life and interfere with your relationships, recreation, and work. Call us today for an evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan that can help restore your health and well-being.

Schedule Appointment

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