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What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

Connecting the jaw to your skull are the temporomandibular joints, two heavily used joints comprised of muscles, tendons, and bones. Healthy TMJs allow you to chew, speak and move the jaw up and down without pain or stiffness.

Woman with temporomandibular Joint Disorder needs to visit a dentist.

If either joint suffers trauma, disease or inflammation, you could experience pain that radiates into your neck, face and jaw while you are speaking or eating. Rigidity and extreme difficulty opening and closing your mouth may accompany TMJ symptoms. While ibuprofen may provide temporary TMJ pain relief, it is not considered one of several TMJ cures offered by your dentist.

Causes of TMJ Jaw Pain

Dislocation of a jaw joint, injury to the TMJ, teeth grinding and misalignment of the teeth and jaw are some of the more common reasons for TMJ. People with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis may be more at risk for developing TMJ disorder. In many cases, dentists cannot find an exact cause of TMJ disorder and may try several treatment methods before finding one that relieves jaw pain.

Signs and Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

You should make an appointment with your dentist if you have the following TMJ symptoms:

  • Popping/clicking/grinding noise coming from your jaw joints when you open or close your mouth
  • Recurring earache/ear pain
  • Pain around your temples
  • Headaches
  • Locking of temporomandibular joints, especially when your mouth is fully open.
  • Facial pain

Less common symptoms of TMJ include vertigo/dizziness, fatigue, and shoulder or neck pain.

Dental Treatment for TMJ

One of the most effective treatments for temporomandibular joint disorder is oral splint therapy. Following visual and X-ray examination of the temporomandibular joint, your dentist may prescribe one of two different oral splints:

  • Flat plane splint--TMJ symptoms caused by excessive teeth grinding and overly tense jaw muscles . This splint has a flat surface and covers the upper teeth to help minimize grinding of teeth.
  • Hawley splint (repositioning splint)-- fitting over the upper jaw but also making contact with several bottom teeth, the Hawley splint is designed to be worn mostly at night to alleviate clenching and grinding of teeth during sleep.

Other treatments involve special tongue exercises, mouth guards or physical therapy involving ultrasound or application of ice and moist heat to relieve pain and increase jaw mobility. Surgery is only indicated with TMJ does not respond to standard treatments.

Contact Us Today

Call Kitchener East Family Dental today at 519-578-2419 to schedule an appointment for TMJ pain relief.