The “Temporomandibular Joint,” more commonly referred to as the “jaw joint,” assists in the basic opening and closing movements of the jaw. Unfortunately, this joint is a common area for recurring pain. Although conventional wisdom suggests that “popping” sounds in the jaw indicates a TMJ dysfunction, this is not always true. Many times, your jaw is functioning properly even if a “popping” sound is present when chewing or talking.
We offer a TMJ exam that evaluates the joint tissue in the “hinge” of the jaw. Possible problems include swelling, deterioration of the joint tissue or damaged joint tissue (which cushions the jaw bones during the opening and closing movement of the mouth). Common pain relievers and cold compresses can provide temporary relief for most cases of TMJ.
For more serious cases of TMJ, we will recommend alternate treatments. Often, we will suggest using a mouth guard to relieve teeth grinding. In some cases, we will instruct you to use orthodontic appliances or retainers to alleviate discomfort or redirect positioning of the TMJ joint. For the most severe cases of TMJ, we may recommend certain invasive procedures.
Is a TM Disorder a Problem For You?
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
- Have you injured your neck, head or jaws?
- Have you had problems (like arthritis) with other joints?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or to tear into food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered yes, the more likely it is that you have a TM Disorder. Please call our office for a free consultation with the doctor to have the problem evaluated.
Precautions for Tender Jaw Muscles
Eat a soft diet. Avoid foods that are difficult to chew, or that will stress the muscles: french bread, popcorn, raw veggies, corn nuts, steak, and chewing gum.
Avoid over-opening your mouth, even with yawning and sneezing. This tends to stretch affected muscles and ligaments within the jaw joint beyond their capacity to heal. You can put your fist under your chin to support your jaw when yawning.
Avoid holding your teeth together. It stresses the muscles and joint parts.
A trick to relax the facial muscles: Put your tongue tip on a spot on the palate just behind the front teeth; keep your lips together and teeth apart.
Avoid leaning on your jaw, putting pencils between your teeth, or biting your nails. These activities irritate the jaw joint tissues and surrounding muscles.
Good posture minimizes the work of the jaw and neck muscles.
Minimize nicotine and caffeine. These stimulate the nervous system, when your goal is to relax it. To promote a relaxed frame of mind, spend 30 minutes each day on yourself: exercise, music, reading, or meditation.
The best home remedy for a new episode of muscle discomfort is to apply ice packs to the muscles for two periods of 10-15 minutes each day, and to take an anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil.
TM (temporomandibular) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you’ve had symptoms like pain or a clicking sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. Since some types of TM problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important. No one treatment can resolve TM disorders completely, and treatment takes time to be successful. But with the help of your health care team, you’re more likely to have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.
TM disorders develop for many reasons. You may clench or grid your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. Or, you may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking or grating noises when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth wide.