Temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is quite a mouthful. For some folks, TMJ is a somewhat mysterious source of discomfort in their jaw, face and neck. A condition called TMJ disorder also can cause headaches, earaches, and other problems.
Our Racine, WI dentist Dr. David Reesman can help alleviate your pain from TMJ disorder. He’ll start with a comprehensive exam that includes facial X-rays and a detailed discussion of your symptoms.
If you are diagnosed with TMJ disorder, a custom mouthguard can provide relief. Our on-site technicians can create a mouthguard for you in our North Bay Dental office.
What Is Your TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your lower jaw to the temporal bones in front of your ears. The TMJ is what enables your jaw to move up and down and side to side. So you couldn’t chew, talk, or yawn without it!
Who Might Have TMJ Trouble?
Many people suffering from TMJ disorders also have arthritis. The connection between arthritis and TMJ is unclear, according to the the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and researchers are trying to determine why TMJ disorders so frequently occur with arthritis.
Women are more susceptible than men to TMJ disorders. Again, researchers aren’t sure why, but they are exploring a possible link between female hormones and TMJ disorders.
TMJ disorders most commonly afflict people between the ages of 20 and 40, according to the institute.
In addition to arthritis, other risk factors for developing TMJ include:
- Jaw injury, such as a blow to the jaw
- Other injuries to your head or neck, such as whiplash
- Chronic grinding or clenching of teeth, which puts pressure on the TMJ
TMJ Disorder Symptoms
Suspect you may have a TMJ disorder? Signs include:
- Stiff jaw
- Limited movement in jaw or locked jaw
- Pain in your jaw, face, and/or neck
- Unexplained headaches
- Pain in your ears when you open your mouth wide
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when you open or close your mouth
- Facial swelling
- Difficulty chewing
- Change in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
Diagnosing a TMJ disorder can be tricky, since many of its symptoms can be found with other conditions such as sinus problems or toothaches.
Our Dr. Reesman has seen plenty of TMJ cases in his career, as he has been a dentist since 1976. He will ask about your health history and symptoms and conduct a thorough exam that includes full facial X-rays. He may make models of your teeth. He will check your bite and manipulate your TMJ to see if it is working properly.
Treating TMJ Disorder
For TMJ disorder treatment, we will likely recommend a custom mouthguard, which can be created right in our Racine, WI dentist office.
You’ll wear your mouthguard when you sleep. It will prevent you from grinding and clenching your teeth (bruxism), which puts undue pressure on them and prematurely wears them down, in addition to contributing to TMJ problems.
A night guard can:
- Reposition your jaw to alleviate pressure
- Reduce the effects of teeth grinding
- Prevent you from clenching your teeth during the night
If we believe a bite problem is contributing to your TMJ disorder, we may also suggest other treatments, such as dental crowns, that can help give you a better bite.
More Tips to Alleviate TMJ Pain
You can also alleviate TMJ pain with these practices at home:
- Practice gentle jaw stretching exercises. For example, you can press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, then slowly open your mouth as much as you can without feeling pain.
- Apply moist heat and cold packs to your jaw. You can alternate using an ice pack for about 10 minutes, then applying moist heat such as a warm, damp towel for five minutes.
- Avoid making extreme jaw movements such as singing or wide yawning.
- Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). A good over-the-counter choice is ibuprofen. Dr. Reesman can prescribe a stronger NSAID if necessary.
- Eat foods that are easy on your jaw. Skip hard, crunchy foods and chewy foods in favor of soft foods that are easy to consume, such as fish, scrambled eggs, and cooked fruits and vegetables.
While TMJ disorders can be painful and frustrating, you can get some answers – and some relief – at North Bay Dental. Call 262-417-7326 for an appointment with our Dr. David Reesman, a Racine, WI dentist who is experienced in treating TMJ disorders.