Does biting into that choice sirloin cause jaw popping when chewing? Do you grind your teeth at night? What about jaw clicking? Are you experiencing pain similar to headaches or earaches especially on one side of the head? If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions then you may be experiencing a temporomandibular joint disorder. Commonly referred to as TMJ or TMD, this condition can range from being only mildly irritating to excruciating. There are solutions and some lifestyle changes that can be made once a fuller understanding of TMJ is achieved.
The temporomandibular joint is the powerful joint that connects the jawbone to the skull on either side. Because of the daily almost non-stop usage, the TMJ can become overused and, in some cases, misaligned or even fully dislocated. The potential causes can be genetic, caused by another illness, or due to either conscious or unconscious behavior.
Given the myriad things that can lead to a TMJ disorder, it is amazing more people don’t suffer! Bruxism or grinding of the teeth can stress the joint and muscles each night and lead to joint pain. Stress, which may cause the facial muscles to clench, may also cause undue strain. A dislocation due to injury or occasionally a genetic pre-disposition caused by a shallow socket may lead to continued misalignment. Rheumatoid arthritis can present itself at any joint on the body and the jaw is not different.
Besides popping and clicking sounds, a problem with the temporomandibular joint often leads to some serious pain. The problem with this joint pain is that it is often mistaken for a headache, toothache or earache. The joint’s proximity makes it difficult to pinpoint the source of pain especially if there is no clear dislocation. A TMJ headache can linger for days or disappear in hours. Of course, if there is any serious misalignment or locking of the jaw due to a dislocation then medical treatment should be sought immediately. Even a minor socket slippage (subluxation) needs to be addressed before it worsens. In short, any popping, clicking, lingering pain, or noticeable teeth wear from grinding should be discussed with a physician.
Treatment for TMJ of the Jaw
Fortunately, there are many potential solutions to help a person cope with TMJ. There are mouthguards for TMJ that can be worn at night to prevent teeth grinding and to keep the jaw aligned. There are also set TMJ exercises to relieve pain that a competent dentist can train a sufferer to perform daily. These exercises can strengthen and train the joint to help prevent future pain. A TMJ diet can be instituted that limits tough foods like steak and also makes a person aware of giant sandwiches and other oversized foods that may require the jaw to stretch far too wide. Gum chewing must be stopped, too! Even stress exercises like yoga, pilates, and controlled breathing have proven to be helpful with TMJ. Depending upon the severity of the condition, it may require one or more of these solutions.
TMJ and the accompanying popping and clicking (especially when chewing) is not something that a person has to be resigned to. There are many TMJ specialists and in almost any region a competent doctor is available to treat this condition.