If you have jaw pain when you open and close your mouth, or feel a chronic dull ache around your ears and temple, you may have a TMJ/TMD disorder. This is especially possible if you also regularly grind your teeth while you sleep (a condition known as bruxism). Problems with your TMJ’s can leave you with painful joint inflammation and dislocation or even arthritis in the jaw.
TMJ/TMD is a condition involving your temporomandibular joints hinging the lower jaw to your skull and the connective series of muscles and ligaments that allow your jaw to move. Since the characteristics of TMD are often similar to other medical conditions, it can sometimes make diagnosis a challenge.
– Sinus infection
– Ear infection
– Myofascial pain
– Facial neuralgias
To properly facilitate a diagnosis, the American Association for Dental Research recommends that orofacial pain (such as TMJ/TMD) be evaluated. This includes checking your detailed medical history along with a clinical examination of your neck and head. This may involve listening to and feeling the TMJ, jaw bones and muscles, along with the mouth, face, neck and head to find areas of tenderness and pain. Jaw locking and clicking or popping sounds from jaw movements like opening, closing or from side-to-side will also be checked.
Your medical history can tell us if a prior injury, trauma, medical procedure or condition could be contributing to your TMJ symptoms. Blood tests can also help rule out a medical condition, as can X-rays and other imaging. Your lifestyle, including how you are sleeping and any current stresses or anxiety going on, can be considered. Even oral conditions such as dental fillings, cavities, displaced teeth and your bite could be contributing to your TMJ pain.
After TMJ has been confirmed, treatment typically begins with conservative measures, such as a soft food diet, heat packs to reduce muscle tension, anti-inflammatory medication or wearing a customized night guard. Additional therapies may involve prescribing muscle relaxers or practicing rehabilitation exercises such as meditation, yoga, biofeedback or jaw exercises. Surgery may be an option but is typically the last pursued option.
If you are experiencing painful jaw joints and would like an examination, you are welcome to contact our experienced team. We are happy to schedule a visit with our doctor for a thorough TMJ/TMD evaluation and explore your treatment options.