When Your TMJ Pain is More than Just a Nuisance

Posted on 3/25/2017 by Tessa Smith-Greisch
A elderly woman suffering from severe TMJ jaw pain.
Your temporomandibular joint is an important part of your facial structure. It is the hinge connecting your upper and lower jaws, and allows you to open and close your mouth, eat and speak.

When you have pain in the joint, it can make everyday activities uncomfortable. Sometimes, the pain is manageable with over the counter pain medication. However, if the pain has become more than just a nuisance, it may be time to seek help.

What Causes TMJ Pain?

TMJ pain, also known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD), can be caused by one of several factors:

•  Bruxism. Clenching and grinding your teeth can put unnecessary stress on the joint and cause inflammation.
•  Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that happens naturally as you age. TMD can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, which causes joint inflammation that can lead to cartilage destruction.
•  Trauma. Facial trauma, no matter how minor it seems at the time, can cause joint inflammation and pain.
•  Misaligned teeth.

Symptoms of TMD

Sometimes your TMJ can cause more than just a little discomfort. Signs of a more serious TMD problem include:

•  Difficulty opening your mouth.
•  Pain while chewing.
•  Facial pain.
•  Headaches or earaches.
•  Clicking or popping while chewing.
•  Your jaw may lock open or shut.
•  Muscle spasms.

When to Call Your Dentist

Minor TMJ discomfort can usually be managed with over the counter pain medication. However, if these medications are not providing you any relief, and the pain just won't go away, it's probably time to call your dentist.

You should also call your dentist if:

•  If you find it difficult to eat anything, and even have trouble swallowing.
•  Your jaw locks, open or shut.

Your dentist will be able to give you a thorough exam to diagnose TMD as well as determine the cause. With this information, a solution to help ease TMJ pain can be found, whether it's a night guard for bruxism or oral surgery to fix a misaligned bite.

If your TMJ pain has become more than just a nuisance, and is beginning to interfere with your daily life, it's time to make a change. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.



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