Understanding TMJ: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

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TMJ Disorders

Understanding TMJ: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and surrounding muscles are among the strongest and busiest in your body. They help you chew, swallow, and talk; making it unsurprising that this area can sometimes struggle to keep up with everything you need it to do! TMJ disorder has various causes and symptoms, with no single reason why it affects one person but not another. Similarly, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment. This guide will help you learn more about TMJ, how an orthodontist can assist with a personalized treatment plan and ways to manage or reduce pain.

The Prevalence of TMJ Disorder

Estimates show that up to 30% of the population lives with a TMJ-related issue, making it the second most common cause of facial or dental pain after toothaches. If you're suffering from pain in your jaw, face, head, neck, or shoulders, it's crucial to consult with a dentist or orthodontist to determine whether a TMJ disorder causes your pain and design a course of treatment to alleviate your discomfort.

Common Causes of TMJ Disorder

There are various reasons you might experience pain in your temporomandibular joint and surrounding area, but the most common causes include:

  1. Stress: Anxiety or stress can lead to teeth grinding or clenching and muscle contraction, causing discomfort and perpetuating a cycle of anxiety, pain, and tension.
  2. Bruxism (teeth grinding) or clenching: Excessive clenching or grinding can strain your temporomandibular joint and surrounding areas, exacerbating TMJ disorder symptoms.
  3. Malocclusions: Poorly aligned jaws prevent your teeth from making proper contact, stressing your facial and head muscles and straining your temporomandibular joint.
  4. Injury: Trauma, such as whiplash or sports injuries, is common in TMJ disorders.
  5. Disease: Inflammatory diseases like arthritis or IBS and chronic pain disorders are associated with TMJ discomfort.

Your orthodontist will work with you to identify your TMJ discomfort's possible causes and triggers.

Personalized Treatment Options for TMJ Disorder

Because every patient's TMJ disorder is unique, treatment varies for each individual. Some patients can be treated with massage, physiotherapy, and diet, while more complex cases may require splints, braces, or jaw surgery.

  1. Treatment with a Splint: A TMJ splint is a small, clear appliance that helps relax the muscles and ligaments in your jaw and face, minimizing tension caused by bruxism, clenching, or other jaw problems. It can also protect your teeth from further wear and adjust your bite to a more optimal position.
  2. Treatment with Braces or Invisalign: Braces and Invisalign reposition the teeth to discourage grinding and clenching, moving them to a preferable position for your jaw, promoting long-term harmony among the jaw, temporomandibular joint, and surrounding structures.

Managing TMJ Pain

Several courses of action can help reduce TMJ pain and soreness, including simple home remedies:

  1. Over-the-counter medication: Mild pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can help reduce joint inflammation and swelling.
  2. Physiotherapy or massage: Regular sessions can help normalize muscle activity in the jaw, reduce tension in the clenching muscles, and provide relief.
  3. Soft foods: Removing hard, dense, or crunchy foods from your diet can reduce pain and discomfort.
  4. Moist heat or ice: Applying heating pads

Get yourself checked every now and then to catch any early signs of TMJ. If you’re ready to seek treatment for your TMJ-related discomfort, schedule a FREE consultation at your local docbraces office today.

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