As many as 1 in 9 people are affected by this condition, and women are twice as likely to experience it as men, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Today, we’re focusing on temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMJ problems can affect people in many ways, and as we’ve just shown, they affect many people.
If you live in or near Waco, TX, you also can get treatment for this condition with the help of Dr. Michael Thrasher. We offer TruDenta, a multifaceted and comprehensive approach to TMJ treatment.
Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms and the causes of these kinds of problems. Call us at 254-400-2868 to find out what we can do to help you if they are affecting you.
Signs of Trouble
You may not recognize that you have a TMJ problem at first because many of the symptoms can also be caused by other things.
For example, you may not realize initially that headaches (including migraines) and earaches could be the result of ongoing problems with your jaw. You may experience neck, upper back, or shoulder pain as well.
Other common symptoms are easier to connect to your jaw. Specifically, jaw pain, jaw stiffness, and popping or clicking sounds when you open and close your mouth are closely associated with untreated TMJ issues.
It’s also important to pay attention to when your symptoms occur. Does your jaw or face hurt during or after meals? Do you wake up frequently with a headache or earache?
These can be clues about the factor or factors contributing to your condition.
The Many Causes of TMJ Problems
It would be nice if TMJ issue had a single cause. Then we would know exactly what to do in every situation. Unfortunately, multiple causes can affect your jaw in a negative way.
Before we go any further, we want you to locate these joints. Open and close your mouth, then place your hands just under your ears. You will likely be able to feel these joints moving. They are the ball-and-socket joints that allow your lower jaw to move up and down and to a lesser degree side-to-side.
So, what can interfere with your ability to make these simple movements?
Autoimmune diseases are one reason. When you have one of these diseases, it can cause your immune system to attack healthy tissues in your body.
These are joint, so arthritis can cause problems as well. Traumatic injuries can cause swelling or may affect the alignment of your jaw.
Excessive use of your jaw — such as chewing gum, speaking, or singing for extended periods of times — can exaggerate existing problems.
But one of the factors we see frequently are the effects of teeth grinding. The technical term for this is bruxism, and millions of Americans do this for hours each night as they sleep. (This can help explain why you may be more prone to feeling your symptoms more often in the morning.)
If you are feeling stressed, you may be more likely to grind or clench your teeth as well.
Scientists have researched how much added stress your jaw is under as a result of clenching and grinding as well. A normal human bite can generate a force between 200 and 250 pounds of pressure. Nighttime teeth grinders have been measured creating 500 pounds of pressure (and more in some cases).
When you do that for hours, night after night, the effects show up as greater wear and tear on your teeth and one or more of the symptoms we described above.
The TMJ Association recommends attempting self-treatment of TMJ issues as your first step.
Eating softer foods can give your jaw a break and allow it to recover. Sometimes taking an over-the-counter pain reliever is all you need to ease pains in your face, jaw, neck, or back.
For swelling, you can try applying an ice or cold pack to your jaw. If your jaw feels stiff or stuck, moist heat can help to loosen your jaw.
And if you suspect stress is contributing to your condition, you may want to seek new ways of relaxing. For some people, exercise provides stress relief. Other people turn to therapy. Learning some relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or meditation can be helpful for some people as well.
If this alleviates your symptoms, that’s great. If your symptoms return when you stop your treatment, or they persist in spite of your efforts, that’s when you should give us a call.
TruDenta Comprehensive Care
At Hillcrest Dental Care, we use TruDenta to tackle TMJ and teeth grinding from a number of angles.
We conduct a bite force analysis. This helps identify any imbalances in your jaw, and whether those imbalances occur when you are opening or closing your mouth or while you are chewing.
We will take headache history as well. Knowing how often you have headaches and how severe they are can help determine the right treatment for you.
We also will examine the muscles around your jaw. Knots could be restricting how much you are able to move your jaw.
To coincide with that, we also test the range of motion of your jaw.
We also will have you fill out a head health questionnaire to learn if you have had any trauma to your head or jaw. Those kinds of injuries could affect your current condition.
TruDenta is a 12-week program. By the time you are finished, you should notice less pain, less inflammation in the tissues in and around your jaw, and fewer muscles spasms (if you were having them before). This approach also helps your muscles and tissues heal from the effects of your TMJ dysfunction.
You Shouldn’t Live in Pain
The headaches, jaw pains, and other problems associated with TMJ dysfunction are a serious matter. They can affect your ability to concentrate on tasks at work or on projects at home. They also can make you want to avoid people you care about if the pain is too great.
Everyone at our Waco, TX dentist office wants you to live as pain-free as possible. Let us help you help yourself.