Wondering what’s behind your chronic jaw pain and other symptoms? TMJ Dysfunction Syndrome may be the culprit. Here, our Southeast Calgary dentists describe potential causes, symptoms and treatments.
What is the TMJ?
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jaw to your skull’s temporal bones (located in front of each ear). This hinge allows movement of your jaw from side to side and up and down. Every time you talk, chew, or yawn, your TMJ joint is working for you.
What is Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction Syndrome?
When your jaw’s muscles are out of alignment or parts of your TMJ joint are not working as they should, TMJ Dysfunction can come into play.
What causes TMJ Dysfunction?
Anything that puts traumatic or continual stress on your TMJ - from whiplash in a car accident to grinding your teeth in your sleep - can lead to this painful condition. Causes include:
- Misalignment of your teeth or jaw
- Injury to your teeth
- Poor posture
- Arthritis (Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis)
- Stress (can cause tightening of your facial and jaw muscles, and teeth clenching)
- Gum chewing (repetitive action that puts stress on your TMJ)
Depending on the cause and your diagnosis, your dentist may suggest home remedies or treatment to solve your issues and alleviate symptoms - more about that below.
What are common symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction Syndrome?
Issues with the jaw can cause a host of painful symptoms, including:
- Grinding of teeth (which usually happens at night and can eventually cause erosion, loose teeth and other dental problems)
- Pain, stiffness or soreness in your jaw
- Popping, locking, or clicking in your jaw
- Headaches or pain in your temples
- Swelling or a “tired” feeling in your face
- Difficulty swallowing (due to muscle spasms)
You may find symptoms worsen when you feel stressed. Neck pain and even dizziness can follow - clearly something you’ll want to address as soon as possible.
How can TMJ Dysfunction Syndrome be treated?
Sometimes, home remedies may relieve pain from TMJ Dysfunction Syndrome. Try reducing your stress, eating soft foods, gently massaging your jaw and neck muscles or applying a warm compress, avoiding chewing gum, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). If none of these work, your next option is to see your dentist.
Your dentist will first examine your jaw area and bite thoroughly, take x-rays, and look over your dental history before officially diagnosing TMJ Dysfunction Syndrome and recommending treatment, which may include:
- Prescription medications
- TMJ Therapy
- Physical therapy
- Dental splints
- Oral Surgery (for severe cases)
With the help of your dentist, and a combination of home remedies and good self-care practices, TMJ Dysfunction Syndrome can often be managed.