It is not uncommon for people to suffer from jaw pain from time to time. On the other hand, if the pain is associated with clicking or popping while the person is chewing or moving their jaw, it could be something more serious. When these are your symptoms, you are likely suffering from a very common issue known as the temporomandibular joint syndrome, or TMJ.
What is TMJ?
When people complain of jaw pain, the first thing we like to do is let them know a little bit more about TMJ, as they can often tell fairly quickly whether or not this is what they are suffering from. Let’s talk anatomy for a moment. The temporomandibular joint is what connects your jaw to the rest of your skull. If you want to see for yourself, simply place your hand on your jaw in front of the center of your ear. Then move your jaw. When you do this, you should be able to feel the pieces moving. When you have TMJ syndrome, it is a disorder of the nerves and muscles of this particular joint. Most often, this disorder will begin as a mild discomfort but can often lead to long-term problems.
What are the symptoms of TMJ?
The symptoms that come for TMJ are fairly straightforward. In fact, there are only about three telltale signs that you are suffering from this disorder and they are as follows:
Pain in the joint of your jaw:
Caused by the tension in the muscles around the jaw, TMJ causes stress on the joint. Additionally, extra pressure can be caused by teeth grinding. This will almost always lead to soreness and aching in the jaw as well as all around the joints. You may also find that the aching has spread to your ears or face.
Clicking or popping sounds coming from the jaw:
When your temporomandibular joint is out of alignment, the interlocking pieces of the bone and the cartilage can rub against each other. This will often lead to you hearing a clicking or a popping noise. It is common as well for you to feel this popping. Most commonly the symptoms appear because of stress or postural problems and can be extremely painful for those who are suffering from TMJ.
When TMJ gets more severe, inflammation, as well as tension in the muscles can lead to the joint locking up. Accompanied by pain, this symptom often makes it extremely difficult for you to open and close your mouth.
Additionally, some of the less overt symptoms of TMJ are:
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Headaches and migraines
- Sleep disorders
- Fatigue during the daytime
- Teeth sensitivity
- Chipped or cracked fractures
- Bony growths under the tongue
- Ringing in the ears
What should you do if you experience these symptoms?
If you think that you are suffering from TMJ, your dentist has probably already noticed a few of the warning signs such as a wearing down of your teeth and bite marks on the sides of your cheeks. On the other hand, you may not have a serious case of TMJ and therefore, find yourself only experiencing a handful of the symptoms above. Regardless, it’s important that you go and see your dentist as soon as you think this may be what is causing your discomfort.
What can be done about TMJ?
When you see a dentist about a possible TMJ condition, there are a few things they may suggest to make your symptoms more mild. For instance, your dentist may suggest that you begin to use an occlusal guard/nightguard so that you do not do more damage to your teeth or to your jaw while you are sleeping. Your dentist could also suggest that you have your teeth reshaped, that you take muscle relaxers as a temporary solution or that you begin taking an anti-inflammatory medication daily to prevent swelling and worsening of your condition.
Contact Brightleaf Dental today
When you contact Brightleaf Dental in Santa Monica, we will go above and beyond to help you remedy any pain or TMJ symptoms that you may be experiencing. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about this condition from which you may be suffering. We would love to assist you!