TMJ disorder is a common and frustrating condition. If you’ve ever suffered from TMJ pain, you know what we’re talking about. The pain can range from aching jaw and earaches to full-blown migraines. Let’s talk about what it is, the causes, and how we can help.
What is TMJ (or TMD)?
TMJ is the name of a joint: the temporomandibular joint. If the joint becomes injured and causes problems, then it is referred to as temporomandibular disorder (TMD). However, most people, including dentists, refer to it as TMJ disorder or just TMJ. This is the joint that connects your lower jaw bone to your head (near your ears). It can hinge, glide, or rotate, making it a very useful, but very complex joint. Basically, a lot can go wrong.
How do I know if I have it?
TMJ disorder can manifest in a variety of ways, none of which specifically means you have a TMJ disorder. If you suffer from jaw tenderness, headaches, facial stiffness, popping jaw, earaches, painful chewing, or misalignment of teeth when you bite down, then TMD is a possibility.
How does one ‘get’ TMJ?
Just like its variety of manifestations, TMJ disorder is caused by a variety of factors. The most common cause is whiplash (injuries to the head and neck). However, grinding and clenching teeth, arthritis, or an uneven bite (your teeth don’t line up properly) can cause it.
What can I do about it?
Once you and your dentist have determined the cause of your pain, there are several things you can do to ease the pain. Sometimes TMJ disorder resolves in a few weeks on its own, but often more concerted measures are needed to assuage the symptoms.
- Use your jaw less. Let it relax.
- Keep cold and hot packs on it like any other muscle injury.
- Make sure you have good posture. Slouching can push your lower jaw forward
- Use a bite guard.
- Use anti-inflammatory medication (temporarily).
Lastly, if the cause of your TMJ is a misaligned bite, consider Invisalign. This is an easy and inconspicuous way to realign your teeth and jaw so that your bite is more comfortable. Invisalign can provide immediate relief as it prevents teeth from clenching in the wrong position.