Everyone has two temporomandibular joints (often abbreviated as TMJ) located on each side of your jaw. The joint helps your jaw open and close so you can speak, chew, and use your mouth each day. Millions of people experience pain as a result of TMJ disorders (also abbreviated as TMJ). In some cases TMJ could be a result of trauma to your face or jaw, such as a motor vehicle accident, but many people do not know the specific cause of their disorder, and researchers are also trying to find answers about what can lead to the condition. If you experience any of these signs of a disorder, talk to your dentist to find out what options are available.
You probably use your temporomandibular joint a lot throughout the day, and sometimes you might experience mild pain. While this is usually nothing to worry about, and will often go away on its own, if you experience severe or prolonged pain in your joint (the area just in front of and below your ear), schedule an appointment to see your dentist. This is especially true if your pain is making it difficult to sleep or eat.
Frequent or Persistent Migraine Headaches
Another sign of a potential issue with TMJ are frequent headaches, especially migraine headaches that are accompanied by neck pain and stiffness in and around your jaw. While headaches could be caused by many different things, ones that occur regularly and don’t have another explanation could be the result of TMJ. It’s important to talk to your doctor and your dentist about these headaches so you can get a proper diagnosis.
Clicking or Popping Sound
If you hear a clicking sound or popping sensation every time you open and close your mouth, this could be a sign of a temporomandibular joint that is dislocated, or an indication of arthritis in the joint. Often (although not always) the clicking and popping will be accompanied by other symptoms, like jaw pain or tenderness in the area of the joint.
Painful Chewing or Grating Sensation While Chewing
It’s normal to experience occasional discomfort when you’re chewing something tough, such as a piece of steak, but if that pain occurs anytime you eat that can be a sign of a problem. Some people also report a grating or grinding sensation when chewing that could indicate a TMJ disorder.
When to See Your Dentist
If you have occasional TMJ pain you can mention it to your dentist at your next six-month checkup, but if that pain persists or starts to interfere with your daily life, you should schedule a dentist appointment right away. If you experience sudden or severe pain, or a “locked” jaw where you cannot open or close your mouth, contact the dentist immediately.
Treatment for TMJ ranges from conservative treatment you can do at home to surgery in some cases, but it’s important to talk to your dentist about what is best for you. Contact Young Family Dental today to schedule an appointment if you have experienced TMJ-related pain.