Managing TMJ Disorders
TMJ problems are rarely cured. However, we can reduce the long-term difficulties to your health and quality of life and direct you toward the help you need. Most people have many variables of problems that contribute to TMJ pain. If cases of TMJ are not addressed, problems worsen. Just because pain or symptoms are gone doesn’t mean you don’t have continuing damage.
Patients should seek a more detailed diagnosis or treatment for TMJ if they have the following:
- Difficulty opening their mouth wide
- Jaw locking open for any amount of time
- Recurring problems with therapy and results that don’t last
- Concern about continuing damage and future problems
TMJ is not a diagnosis but a description of the location of the pain where it is most noticeable.
Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
There are many different ways TMJ disorders make themselves known in your mouth. Some of them are hard to recognize are symptoms of dental or oral health problems. Call our office if you experience one or multiple of the following symptoms. We’ll perform an evaluation for TMJ disorders so that we can get you the correct treatment.
The most common symptom is usually pain around the jaw joint. It can be on one or both sides of the jaw. Patients have said that the pain worsens when chewing or just opening their mouths wide. The pain can radiate to surrounding areas, usually including the head. Waking up with headaches is common for patients with TMJ disorders. These headaches can worsen into migraines with time.
TMJ disorders impact both the muscles and the bones. The muscles that help move the jaw become stiff or fatigued, making it difficult to move your jaw. Painful muscle spasms can also occur randomly, pulsing throughout the area. As the jaw joint wears down, it’s common for it to pop or click with use. Your jaw may lock or grind, struggle to fully open or close, or briefly get stuck in a certain position.
TMJ disorders and teeth grinding often go hand in hand. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to do it. It’s all subconscious and usually happens when you’re asleep. You may also catch yourself doing it when you’re focused on something during the day. Teeth grinding heightens the need for treatment because it puts more pressure on your jaw joint and teeth, accelerating the problem.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
Various different things can cause TMJ disorders. Yours may be caused by a single factor or multiple. Everyone is different, and we try to determine and correct the root cause so you no longer have to worry.
Stress and Lifestyle Causes
Certain things you do in your everyday life may contribute to developing a TMJ disorder. Grinding and clenching your teeth is one of the main causes of TMJ disorders. When stressed, you’re more likely to do these things, often subconsciously or while asleep. This puts constant pressure on the area, breaking down the joint over time.
Habits like excessive gum chewing overwork your jaw muscles. They get fatigued, and the jaw joint becomes strained. Even your posture has an impact on your jaw joint. When you slouch and hunch over, there’s more strain on your neck and jaw muscles. If your diet doesn’t have enough essential vitamins and minerals, it impacts the joints and muscles.
There are many medical causes for TMJ disorders, too. Trauma or injury directly impacting the jaw joint can damage the joint structures and increase your chances of TMJ disorders. An uneven bite does this, too. If your teeth are crooked and your bite doesn’t come together properly, the jaw doesn’t track smoothly. The joint starts to break down, and the muscles and surrounding ligaments strain.
Multiple medical conditions contribute. Osteoarthritis occurs due to the wear and tear of the cartilage inside your jaw joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful autoimmune disorder that causes pain and inflammation of the joints. Both conditions can lead to chronic pain, joint stiffness, and restricted jaw movement.
Other harmful medical conditions that cause TMJ problems include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and connective tissue disorders. Many of these make you more susceptible to pain and cause muscle tension.
TMJ Treatment at Coastal Virginia Sleep Solutions
We will ensure that we give you ALL the information you will need on your first visit with us.
Our dental team will ask you to provide us with information that will help us make your first visit as efficient and valuable as possible. We will schedule you for a 15-30 minute appointment with a TMJ-focused evaluation. Our team will use the information you provided and our clinical evaluation to explain your situation.
Dr. Harper will check for pain in the TMJ or muscle and if you have a danger of continued damage. He will find the causes of your TMJ problems, give you a diagnosis, and provide recommendations on how he can help.
TMJ Disorder FAQs
TMJ can be a very debilitating, painful condition. Learn more by reading the answers to these commonly asked questions.
Can a TMJ disorder go away on its own?
No. Some TMJ pain or symptoms will feel better independently, or the pain will disappear over time. That does not mean that the problem has gone away completely. A patient’s first appointment is just the start of unraveling a long-term problem.
When should I get treated for TMJ?
You should seek treatment if trauma or injury causes TMJ problems or if you suddenly cannot open your jaw fully (especially after waking up). Schedule an evaluation as soon as possible. There is likely damage that will continue to get much worse, but we can reverse it if treated early enough.
Do I need surgery to get rid of TMJ?
We can address most TMJ issues with non-invasive treatments and common dental procedures. Surgery is only necessary if you have severe TMJ, jaw deformities, and other jaw problems.
What should you not do with TMJ?
Patients with TMJ should avoid chewing gum or any chewy candies. Patients should also avoid eating hard foods because it can be tough on your jaw muscles. Also, avoid tooth grinding and clenching if you have TMJ issues.
How do you calm a TMJ flare-up?
The best way to calm a TMJ flare-up is to apply heat or ice to the jaw joint area. Sticking to a soft diet and avoiding eating foods that involve excessive chewing will also help calm a flare-up. Taking OTC painkillers will also help decrease pain from the flare-up.
What time of day is TMJ worse?
Patients typically report that the worst TMJ symptoms happen at night. This is because patients are most likely to grind and clench their teeth at nighttime.
How should I sleep with TMJ?
The best position for sleeping with TMJ is on your back. Sleeping on your back keeps pressure off your jaw while providing proper support for your head and neck.
Contact our office for an evaluation today. Call Coastal Sleep & TMJ at (757) 600-0861 or request an appointment on our website.