Do you sometimes feel jaw pain? Do you feel pain when you chew or do you find it difficult to chew when eating, especially hard food? If your answer is YES then you might be suffering from a temporomandibular joint disorder or commonly known as TMJ disorder. The temporomandibular joint is a joint that acts like sliding hinges connecting your jaw to your skull. TMJ enables you to close and open your mouth. It allows you to push your jaw forward, slide and move it from one side to another.
The temporomandibular joint is composed of muscles, blood vessels, bones, and nerves. The muscles that enable TMJ to perform its functions are the following:
- Medial pterygoid
- Lateral pterygoid
Any abnormalities or anything that can cause stress to these muscles may lead to TMJ disorder. However, the exact cause of TMJ disorder is still unclear. Your jaw pain might be due to several factors or a combination of causes. For example, people with bruxism or those who clench their teeth may suffer from jaw pain but some may clench their teeth occasionally but will not develop TMJ disorder. Though it is clear that TMJ disorder is most likely to occur if the disk erodes or moves out of its alignment, the joint’s cartilage is damaged because of arthritis and when the joint is damaged by a blow.
So, how can you be sure that you are suffering from TMJ disorder? Here are some symptoms you should take note of:
- Pain or tenderness in your jaw
- Pain in one or both of TMJ joints
- Pain around your ears
- Facial pain
- Difficulty chewing
- Difficulty when opening or closing your mouth
TMJ disorder is more common in women than in men and is more likely to occur when you have poor posture, suffering from stress or anxiety, arthritis, has orthodontic braces and excessive chewing.
Diagnosing TMJ disorder
Though there are no specific tests for TMJ disorder, looking at the patient’s medical history and a physical examination can help diagnose the condition. Through this, your physician will be able to find out what triggers the symptoms. Your doctor may recommend you to see and visit a dentist to confirm the diagnosis.
How Can A Dentist Help?
Dentists are responsible for keeping your dental health in excellent condition. Dentists can help in diagnosing TMJ disorder by looking throughout your entire mouth as well as feeling your closure. Because TMJ disorder is caused by tooth and jaw alignment issues, there are certain dental treatments that can help such as using braces that can realign your teeth and jaws or advise you to wear a night guard in order to prevent you from clenching or grinding your teeth.
It is also recommended to eat soft foods and avoid chewing gums too. Your dentist can also come up with a list of suggestions and recommendations on how you can alleviate the pain brought by TMJ disorders. Talk to your dentist today about your overall oral health and talk about the wellbeing of your TMJ muscles and your jaw in general.