TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joints of your jaw. These joints connect your lower jawbone to your skull. They get a lot of use throughout the day as you speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. Pain in and around these joints can be unpleasant and even restrict movement.
When a disorder develops with your TMJ, we refer to it as TMD – temporomandibular disorder. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain as well as severe, recurring headaches. In some cases, this pain is due to TMD.
Symptoms of a Jaw Disorder (TMD)
There are a lot of different indicators that can be your body telling you that there is something wrong with your jaw.
Some of the more common indicators are:
- Pain in or around your jaw joint
- Earaches or a ringing in your ears
- Facial discomfort or pain
- Swelling on the sides of your face
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Difficulty chewing
- Radiating pain around the jaw or your neck
- Painful popping when you open or close your mouth
If you feel that you might have TMD, you must see your dentist and receive an exam. However, not all jaw pain is associated with TMD, and if you do not have TMD, there are many different preventive steps you can take to maintain a healthy, strong smile.
- Relax your face with your lips together, teeth apart.
- Avoid grinding your teeth
- Avoid all gum chewing
- Don’t cradle the phone receiver between your head and shoulder — either use a headset or hold the receiver to your ear
- Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
- Do not sit with your chin rested on your hand
- Practice good posture — keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared
Many people get TMD without ever having braces. Symptoms usually wax and wane regardless of whether braces are worn. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and are concerned that you’re a candidate for TMD treatment, please contact our office for a consultation.
How your jaw disorder gets treated depends on what exactly the problem is.
After you get an exact diagnosis, we will go over your treatment options. Some standard treatment options are braces or a nightguard to help prevent your teeth from clenching or grinding in your sleep.
In some severe cases, you may need jaw surgery. This procedure involves adjusting or repositioning your upper or lower jaw. We sometimes use surgery in combination with orthodontic correction like braces.
For some immediate relief, if your jaw is painful, you can use a heat or ice pack. Either heat or ice can reduce swelling and relax your jaw muscles.
Jaw disorders can be painful, but don’t worry, there are usually relatively simple and easy ways to fix them. At Cobb Orthodontics, we provide highly individualized care, so you will get whatever treatment you need for your specific situation.
Dr. Tripp Cobb