Disorders of the jaw are more common than most people might think. In fact, up to 12 million adults in the U.S. have reported experiencing chronic jaw pain. If you’re one of them, you should make an appointment to see a dentist—your jaw pain could stem from a TMJ disorder. November is TMJ awareness month, so if you suffer from occasional or chronic jaw pain, here’s what you need to know.
Five Quick TMJ Facts
- The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your cheekbone.
- Chronic jaw pain may be due to a TMJ disorder, also known as TMJ dysfunction or TMJ syndrome.
- As many as 5%-12% of adults are affected by a TMJ disorder (TMJD).
- TMJD is most common in women between the ages of 35 and 44.
- Many TMJ disorders can be corrected with dental treatments.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
The most common symptom of TMJD is jaw pain. Oftentimes, that pain is accompanied by a clicking or popping sensation when you open or close your mouth. Depending on the cause of your TMJD, you might have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the jaw joint
- Sore jaw muscles
- Face or neck pain
- Stiff or locked jaw
- Painful popping, clicking, or grating
- Ringing in the ears
- Changes to your bite alignment (the way your upper and lower jaw fit together)
Causes of TMJ Disorders
Although there are many conditions that can cause TMJD, the most common one is a misaligned bite. If you’re experiencing jaw pain because your upper and lower teeth don’t fit together correctly, or because you grind your teeth at night, your dentist or orthodontist should be able to correct the problem.
If your TMJD is being caused by something else, like a jaw injury or degenerative joint disease, you’ll need to see a medical doctor instead. The causes of TMJD include:
- Bite alignment issues
- Muscle disorders
- Joint disorders
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
In some cases, TMJ disorders are temporary. In other people, symptoms come and go. And still, others suffer almost continually from jaw pain. There are ways to manage TMJD symptoms on your own, but if they persist, you should make a dentist appointment. If your symptoms are caused by a dental issue, the right treatment could give you permanent relief.
Hot and Cold Compresses. If your jaw pain is a dull, constant ache, heat therapy can help. Applying a warm, wet washcloth to your face for 20 minutes should relieve your pain.
For sharp, shooting pain, cold therapy is better. Wrapping ice packs in a thin towel and pressing them against your jaw will help the pain subside.
Small Bites and Soft Foods. Making a few changes to the way you eat can also help reduce jaw pain. First, avoid any foods that force you to open your mouth wide to take a bite, like loaded hamburgers, apples, or corn on the cob. Instead, cut your food up into small bites that are easy to chew. And try to eat as many soft foods as you can, like oatmeal, pasta, soup, and eggs, to give your jaw a rest.
Dental Treatments for TMJD
Can Invisalign Help Treat TMJ disorders?
Because Invisalign can correct some misalignments like open bites and crossbites, which often cause TMJD, it can relieve jaw pain in some cases. Orthodontic treatments like braces or Invisalign can also help relieve bruxism, a condition that’s common in people with TMJD. If you’re subconsciously clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth to compensate for misalignment, straightening your teeth could make TMJD go away.
Does Bruxism Cause TMJD?
Wearing a custom-fit night guard while you sleep can relieve TMJD symptoms. Its soft, flat surface prevents the damage caused by unconscious teeth grinding. It also helps your jaw find a more comfortable resting position, which prevents clenching and even helps you sleep better.
TMJD Treatment in Aurora
Not all jaw pain is from TMJ disorders. In its advanced stages, periodontal disease (gum disease) can lead to painful infections of the jawbone. If you have any kind of jaw pain, you should schedule an exam at Hampden Dental right away. Whether the source of your pain is gum disease or TMJD, our qualified team can provide the treatment you need to live pain-free.