If you experience throbbing headaches, pain and tenderness of your jaw, or have difficulty chewing, you may be one of the millions of Americans who suffer from a TMJ disorder. November is TMJ Awareness Month, and we’re breaking down the causes, symptoms, and treatments of TMJ disorders so you can learn the most effective ways to stay pain-free year-round.
What is TMJ?
Every person has two temporomandibular joints (TMJ) located in front of each ear. These joints allow your jaw to move in a hinge and sliding motion so you can talk, chew, or swallow. When TMJ disorders strike, they can cause pain and restriction of the jaw, along with a myriad of other unpleasant side effects that can critically damage quality of life, including:
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth (jaw locking)
- Tenderness and pain in your jaw
- Pain in or around your ears
- Migraines and tension headaches
- Neck and shoulder pain
Often, there are a number of factors that can contribute to painful TMJ disorders, ranging from stress, to teeth grinding, to a bad bite. Most of these factors place undue pressure on your jaw’s joints, leading to the characteristic symptoms of pain, tightness, and restricted range of motion.
Treatment Options for TMJ
Because TMJ disorders can affect your ability to speak, eat, and even sleep, managing the pain and discomfort brought on by TMJ problems can feel overwhelming. However, regardless of the stage, there are a number of effective treatments for patients to try. While most TMJ disorders are resolved with conservative treatments, sometimes surgical intervention is needed to relieve discomfort and pain. Treatments include bite realignment, a mouth guard, or restorative dentistry.
If patients have TMJ caused by malocclusion (an improper bite), one of the most effective treatments is orthodontic work, like Invisalign®, which is offered in-office. Treatments like aligners can often correct the improper bite and ensure that the jaw functions without compensating for misaligned teeth. In many cases, orthodontics can also reduce rates of jaw clenching or teeth grinding, since misaligned teeth are more prone to these TMJ-inducing habits.
If you routinely suffer from painful TMJ disorders, take the first step toward a pain-free life by scheduling an appointment with us today. By determining the causes of your pain, we can discuss treatment options ranging from a night guard and restorative dentistry to Invisalign®that can transform the way you feel and give you the happiest, healthiest smile yet.