What is TMJ?
TMJ or TMD, temporomandibular joint disorder, involves the temporomandibular joints, which are located on the side of your head. These joints work with your muscles, ligaments, discs and bones, enabling you to speak, chew and yawn. TMJ occurs when these joints are not working properly. If you answer yes, to a number of the questions listed below, you should seek the help of a qualified dentist to guide you with proper treatment.
- Do you have frequent headaches?
- Does your neck, back of your head or shoulders hurt frequently?
- Do you hear popping, clicking or cracking sounds when you chew?
- Do you hear a grating sound in your jaw joint?
- Do you have stuffiness, pressure or pain in your ears?
- Do you have crooked, missing, “bucked” or crowded teeth?
- Do you have an overbite?
- Do you hear a ringing or buzzing sound in either or both of your ears?
- Do you experience dizziness (vertigo) frequently?
- Do your jaws feel tight or difficult to open?
- Do your jaws ache after eating?
- Do you wake up in the morning with sore facial muscles?
- Are you aware of clinching or grinding teeth while you are asleep, frustrated or under stress?
- Do you suffer from depression or decreased energy level as a result of any of the above symptoms?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose broken or worn?
- Have you been hit in the jaw or had a whiplash injury?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Have you been told that you might have TMD?
How is TMJ treated?
If you are diagnosed with TMJ, your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend using a splint or night guard, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), corrective treatment of your teeth, trigger-point injections or other forms of treatment. If it is severe, surgery may be recommended. This should be your last resort, as surgery is irreversible.
If you are experiencing discomfort in your face and jaw, talk to your dentist about low-grade pain medicines like ibuprofen. Also, consider eating softer foods as much as possible and avoid strenuous lifting and becoming overstressed; these tend to make you want to clench your teeth and agitate the TMJ.
If left untreated, TMJ can lead to other more significant health problems including: Poor oral health, chronic headaches, lack of sleep due to tooth grinding, malnutrition or eating disorders and hearing problems.