For a variety of reason your temporomandibular joint – frequently called TMJ – may cause you pain. When this occurs it is referred to as TMJ disorder or dysfunction. You may have seen or heard this referred to as TMD.
Your temporomandibular joint is where the part of your skull called the temporal bone meets your mandible. This is the lower jawbone that holds all your bottom teeth in place. Your TMJ allows you to move your jaw side to side as well as up and down.
There are many different theories as to why your TMJ may be causing you pain. Genetics, arthritis, stress, and injuries are some of the contributing factors that can cause problems with your TMJ and result in TMD.
Some people may be predisposed to TMD. Though both men and women are diagnosed as having TMD, it has been found to be diagnosed more frequently in women than men. Your bone structure and joints may also be contributing factors to TMD.
Over time, the inside of your temporomandibular joint may experience some wear. This might be due to the type of arthritis called osteoarthritis. Usually, this kind of arthritis affects older individuals more than younger ones. Other types of arthritic inflammation in your TMJ may be due to gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
Straining and tightening your jaw and facial muscles can put pressure on your TMJ and cause TMD. You may be unconsciously holding stress in your jaw and face that can also lead to teeth clenching or grinding.
Some people clench or grind their teeth throughout the day. It can become such a habit that it might go virtually unnoticed. You may even be clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep without knowing it.
A dislocation of the jaw can result in TMD. Some studies claim other traumas – like a sudden blow – may cause TMD as well. This would involve some sort of displacement or stress that results in TMD symptoms.
How can I relieve the pain caused by TMD?
Luckily, today there are many different options for treating all kinds of TMD. There are plenty of noninvasive and very advanced options to help manage or eliminate your pain associated with TMD.
Switching to a diet of soft foods may alleviate some pain you are experiencing associated with TMD.
Depending on your situation and pain level, the dentist may recommend a hot/cold treatment routine to reduce pain.
There are over the counter and prescription medications that the dentist may suggest you use to take care of your discomfort.
Massages, meditation, and stress reduction therapy may decrease the amount of pressure that is being placed on your TMJ and alleviate some pain.
Certain exercises may reduce your issues with your TMJ. It is important to consult a licensed professional before starting any therapy regime.
A night guard is worn on your upper and lower teeth to prevent them from touching. This can reduce the negative effects of clenching or grinding at night. If need be, you might be recommended to wear a dental guard during the day.
If missing, impaired, or misaligned teeth are causing uneven stress and pain the dentist or specialist may be able to use crowns, partial dentures, or braces to reduce the stress and pain. Placement of implants or other oral surgical procedures may also be done to relieve your discomfort.
Dr. Gaball works closely with medical professionals in Solana Beach, Del Mar, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Carmel Valley, and surrounding areas who specialize in TMD to deliver you the best treatments possible.
How do I know if I have TMD?
As soon as you feel pain or experience issues that you think may be associated with TMD, you should make an appointment with a dentist.
These pains and issues may include but are not limited to:
- Difficulty opening your mouth widely
- Feeling tired in your face
- Experiencing tenderness or pain in your teeth, jaw joint area, face, ears, neck, head and/or shoulders
- Difficulty chewing
- Getting jaws stuck closed or open
- Swelling of the sides of your face
- Difficulty speaking
Though these may be signs of other problems, it is best to seek the opinion of a professional.
During your regular dental checkup, the dentist will inspect your jaw and bite to see if there are any signs of TMJ problems even if you do not notice any symptoms. The dentist may reference X-ray images, MRI tests, and/or CT scans to better diagnose you.
For over 17 years Dr. Gaball has treated patients with all sorts of TMJ issues. Sometimes the solutions are simple and quick, while other times they can be a bit more complicated.
If you’re concerned about your TMJ give Dr. Gaball a call at (858) 876-9100. She is happy to find a time that works for you to come in and see her.
With Dr. Gaball’s extensive experience diagnosing and treating TMD, you can rest assure that you are in good hands.