Cause and Treatment Options for TMJ Pain

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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the jaw to the skull and is located in front of each ear. Occasionally, people can experience tenderness, pain or discomfort in this location and the cause may be unknown. Problems with the jaw and the muscles in the face that control the jaw are known as temporomandibular disorders or TMD.

What causes TMJ?

  • Arthritis
  • Misaligned bite (problem with the way teeth fit together)
  • Jaw dislocation or injury
  • Stress is thought to be a factor in TMJ. Even strenuous physical tasks, such as lifting a heavy object or stressful situations, can aggravate TMJ by causing overuse of jaw muscles, specifically clenching or grinding teeth (also known as bruxism).
glass orthodontics tmj treatment

How We Can Help

If you are experiencing jaw pain or discomfort, we encourage you to schedule a consultation at Glass Orthodontics. Dr. Glass will examine your jaw and bite, take any needed x-rays and discuss the treatments that will help reduce your pain and discomfort.

Typically, we treat TMJ disorders through a custom splint that is worn 24/7 (except for eating and brushing of teeth) to help relax the jaw into its proper position. In order to create your custom splint our team will take an impression of your teeth, as well as a special bite record. Dr. Glass will see you every 2 to 4 weeks to make adjustments as your bite changes, and your jaw gets more comfortable. Typical treatment time is 3 to 6 months.

If you are experiencing any problems with your jaw, especially pain or tenderness, call Glass Orthodontics today at (757) 204-7770.

Symptoms of TMD

Signs and symptoms of TMD may occur off and on for many years and can include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Pain in one side of the face or both
  • Dull aching pain in or around the ear
  • Difficulty chewing or pain when chewing
  • Facial pain or a tired feeling your face
  • Clicking or popping when opening your mouth wide
  • Locking of the jaw making it difficult to open or close your mouth

To determine how best to treat your condition, a complete evaluation is recommended.

  • Dr. Glass may check your jaw joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping, or difficulty moving.
  • Your complete medical history may be reviewed, so it is important to keep your dental office records up to date.
  • We may take X-rays and may make a model of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.
  • We may also request specialized X-rays of your TMJ.

These self-care practices may be recommended:

  • choose softer foods and avoid other foods that cause symptoms
  • minimize extreme jaw movements, such as yawning, yelling, or singing
  • avoid chewing gum
  • Use heat or ice packs to reduce pain
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation

If necessary, Dr. Glass may recommend these options to relieve your symptoms:

  • exercises to strengthen jaw muscles
  • medicines to reduce pain or inflammation, or to help you relax
  • a full time splint to place your jaw into the proper position
  • In some cases, Dr. Glass may recommend fixing an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic and/or orthognathic treatment may also be recommended.