The joint where your lower jawbone meets the temporal bones of your skull is known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and it can found near the front of each ear. This joint allows your jawbone to move around freely from left or right and up and down so that you can eat, talk and yawn.
Some people develop problems in their jaw or facial muscles which cause pain to this joint. This is call temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). A person with TMJD will often experience pain or tenderness in their jaw, jaw locking, difficulty chewing, clicking or grinding when opening and closing their mouth or a pain in and around the ear.
What causes TMJD?
There are a number of number of reasons why a person may have damaged their TMJ, these include:
- Excessive teeth grinding and clenching.
- Trauma to the jaw
- Stress and anxiety (as you are more likely to clench your teeth or tighten your facial muscles)
- Poor posture
For some people there is no apparent reason as to why the disorder has started.
How to tell if you have TMJD?
While symptoms like jaw pain and clicking when opening the mouth tend to be the most obvious signs that something is wrong there are a few other symptoms to look out for. If you experience stiff jaw muscles when you wake up in the morning, frequent headaches, difficultly sleeping or difficulty opening you mouth wide you may be having TMJ issues. While it is unlikely that one sole symptom with indicate TMJD it is important to consult your dentist is you are worried or in pain.
How is TMJD treated?
There are various ways to treat TMJD depending on the severity of the issue. Initially your dentist may suggest some simple lifestyle changes like eating soft foods for a set period of time (usually two to three weeks), using ice packs and doing some jaw exercises. If the pain is significant it may be recommended that you take some medicine like ibuprofen to help relieve the muscle pain and swelling.
For those with a more significant issues (especially those who clench and grind their teeth) a split may be needed. The splint will separate your upper and lower teeth making it difficult to clench and grind. This will help relieve any jaw inflammation and allow the area to heal. Your dentist will advise how often you will need to wear the split, with most just wearing it at night.
While none of these treatments will cure TMJD they will all help to relieve the pain. You may also have to consult other health practitioners like your GP, chiropractor or physiotherapist.
If you are suffering from jaw pain or any of the other symptoms listed, please call our receptionists to book an appointment.