What is TMJ disorder?
Do you have pain in your jaw or the side of your face? Do you have difficulty in opening your mouth or eating? You could be suffering from TMJ disorder or temporomandibular joint pain dysfunction syndrome.
This is the most common temporomandibular disorder and presents with symptoms of pain, restricted jaw movements and a clicking noise in the jaw. Other symptoms include: headaches, neck pain, ear pain and trismus (commonly called lockjaw).
The reasons for this disorder are not clear and are difficult to determine. These could be trauma to the jaw, damage to a disc in the joint, genetic conditions, arthritis, poor occlusion, missing back teeth, clenching or bruxism (grinding of teeth) but these do not necessarily cause TMJ disorder.
Sometimes the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorder is short-term and can be relieved with self-managed care. This can include physiotherapy, muscle relaxants, heat application or the use of a non-surgical treatment such as an occlusal splint. Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures have failed. Rather than reaching this stage it is best to take measures to take care of the jaw joints.
Here are a few ways to take care of the jaw joint:
- Keep your back teeth for life and as healthy as possible. It is true that only the front teeth are seen when we smile and no one will notice if we are missing the back teeth. Back teeth are there for a reason, and not only for chewing our food properly, but also to keep our right and left joints in balance. If we do lose the back teeth, it is important to replace them promptly so that we do not harm our joints.
- Refrain from excessive use of chewing gums. It is true that sugar free chewing gums help us to stimulate saliva that is very important to oral health; however, habitual usage of it may harm the TMJ. Be careful in stretching our mouth too much during yawning. Never test your mouth as to how far you can open it.
- Always keep your teeth apart when your lips are closed whenever we are not eating or talking. It is important to rest our teeth from touching each other, not only this is healthy for our teeth; it is also healthy for our joints. If you do clench your teeth during the day, you can train yourself by placing reminder everywhere with a note not to clench, and to smile instead for that very moment when you clench. Notice when you genuinely smile, your teeth are not touching.
- See your dentist if you think you might grind your teeth at night. You might need to be checked as well if this is only a stress-related issue or if it a sleep apnoea related condition. If you have noticed clicks with your joints, don’t be too worried, but make sure you mention this to your dentist. However, if you have had a locked-jaw or jaw pain, book an appointment to have this checked-out; we do not want it to worsen.
- Try to remain stress-free. It is true that stress can cause a lot of illnesses and that includes problems in our oral health. Regular maintenance is very important, see your dentist regularly and not only when there is a problem.
Come see us for an appointment today to have your teeth and jaw joints checked.
Blog by: Dr Beverly San Pablo