Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is often referred to as TMJ or TMD. Whichever acronym you prefer to use, your temporomandibular joint is located where your jaw meets your skull on each side of your face.
The symptoms of TMJ arise when that soft joint becomes inflamed. Precisely what causes that inflammation to occur is the subject of an ongoing investigation, and there is a wide range of mechanisms of injury.
Symptoms of TMJ
Symptoms of TMJ include pain and tenderness in the jaw and TMJ joint(s); headaches that seem to be focused near your temples and may feel a lot like earaches; difficulty chewing without pain, or chewing at all; facial pain generally; and limited range of motion when trying to open or close your jaw. Many people with TMJ also report a clicking or popping sound in their jaw, along with some of these other symptoms.
The cause of and risk factors for TMJ
Genetic influences, arthritis, and injury are all implicated in people’s experiences of TMJ. There is a significant overlap between TMJ symptoms and those associated with sleep bruxism, which is characterized by clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth as you sleep, which can also be caused by genetic influences or even stress.
Your dentist in Davie may ask you screening questions for TMJ during regular checkups to identify any indications of TMJ or related conditions as early as possible. While TMJ does not necessarily implicate your teeth, the sometimes overlapping condition of sleep bruxism can cause significant damage to teeth and dental work. If your dentist does identify TMJ indications, options for dentist-supported TMJ treatment in Davie include a mouth guard to wear at night and reshaping the biting surfaces of your teeth.
How to ease your own TMJ symptoms
It is possible to ease your TMJ symptoms by avoiding certain behaviors and activities. When coupled with early intervention with the support of a dentist, these behavior changes may be enough to resolve any debilitating symptoms. Here are four steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms of TMJ.
Stop using your teeth as if they were pliers
Your mother may have told you this more than once. Don’t use your teeth to open packages or cut things — other than food. Your teeth are not scissors or pliers. Strong as they are, they do not hold up to activities like opening bottles, chewing on pencils, or even holding items for prolonged periods. All those actions can worsen TMJ’s symptoms by placing unexpected strain and pressure on your temporomandibular joint.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start; If you smoke, stop
Smoking is associated with elevated risks of several conditions, ranging from halitosis (bad breath), stained teeth, and — far more seriously — oral cancer and chronic pain conditions, including temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
Modify your food intake
Foods commonly associated with TMJ’s worst symptoms include tough meat, chewy and sticky foods, hard vegetables, and crunchy cereals. If your TMJ symptoms include a reduced range of pain-free jaw motion, you should also avoid eating any foods that require you to open your jaw to the fullest extent. To try and ease the worst of TMJ symptoms, and while undergoing TMJ treatment, limit yourself to a soft diet.
Improve your posture
The tips offered to date may not have surprised you. Does this one? Your jaw is connected to other bones, muscles, and tendons in your body. The alignment of those muscles and bones — especially your shoulders, neck, and anterior pelvic tilt — can affect the pressure placed on and symptoms flowing from your TMJ.