Are you experiencing pain or tenderness in the joints and muscles of your jaw? This common problem can be caused by a number of conditions related to your chewing muscles and temporomandibular joints, collectively called temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Our dentists specializing in TMD can help.The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the ball-and-socket joint on each side of your head, located where your lower jawbone meets the base of your skull at the temporal bone. When you talk, chew, or yawn, the rounded ends of your lower jaw glide in and out of the TMJ socket, aided by cartilage and a small articular disk to absorb shock and keep the movement smooth.
The most common problems that happen with the TMJ are clicking or popping noises, pain when opening the mouth, and limited or restricted ability to open the mouth. Dysfunction within the chewing muscles can cause muscle tenderness, spasms, limited ability to open your mouth, and pain. More complex issues can sometimes involve both the muscles and the joints.
Causes of TMD
These disorders can be the result of one factor or a combination of several different factors, but some common causes of TMD are injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, genetic factors, degeneration of the TMJ due to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other forms of inflammation.
Another common cause of TMD is bruxism – clenching or grinding your teeth. In addition to harming your teeth, bruxism can tire the muscles around the TMJ and create painful spasms, causing even more pain. If left untreated, this pain can become chronic and hard to manage.
Symptoms of TMD
Symptoms can include:
- jaw pain or soreness, more noticeable in the morning or afternoon
- jaw pain while chewing, biting, or yawning
- earache without an infection, sometimes spreading into the face
- a clicking or grinding noise while opening and closing your mouth
- difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- a stiff jaw when eating, talking, or yawning
- sensitive teeth without any signs of dental problems
- aching on the side of the head and neck pain
- “locking” of the jaw in an open or closed position
Treatments for TMD
Proper diagnosis is critical to make sure you receive the right treatment for your particular situation – that’s where our specialized dentistry experts come in! In most cases, the symptoms related to TMD can be successfully treated, but postponing treatment usually results in more damage to the joint, muscles, or teeth.
If you are feeling pain or discomfort in your TMJ, contact us right away! Your dentist will recommend treatment after talking with you, examining your teeth and jaw, and taking appropriate X-rays or other diagnostic tests. All of this will help your dentist prescribe the right plan for you, and get you on the path to feeling better.