Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can cause pain in the jaw joints and the muscles and ligaments controlling jaw movement. TMJ disorders, sometimes referred to as temporomandibular dysfunctions (TMD), can have a significant impact on your life by affecting your ability to speak easily, chew, or yawn. The TMD experts at Sleep Better Columbus are dedicated to improving and preventing TMJ/TMD symptoms.
Types of TMD (temporomandibular dysfunctions)
Disorders of the chewing muscles, the most common form of TMD, can cause myofascial pain. Myofascial pain is pain or discomfort in the fascia (connective tissue covering the muscles) and muscles controlling jaw, neck, and shoulder function.
Disorders of the jaw joints, including disc disorders and degenerative joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis.
Headaches resulting from TMD and/or the associated pain.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is hard to pinpoint, and the pain is usually from a combination of factors, which can be jaw injury, arthritis, or genetics.
TMJ causes may include:
Bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth)
Malocclusion (improper alignment of your top and bottom teeth)
Arthritis in the jaw joint
Jaw injuries, such as a dislocated or broken jaw
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
TMJ disorder symptoms vary widely. People may experience jaw pain, facial pain, and/or shoulder or neck pain. The pain a person feels from TMD can range from mild to severe with some people experiencing chronic pain. Common signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction include:
Pain in the jaw joint and/or chewing muscles (the most common symptom)
Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
Pain in one or both temporomandibular joints
Aching pain in and around your ear
Pain or tenderness of the jaw
Stiffness in your jaw
Aching facial pain
Swelling of the side of the face
Pain that spreads to the face and/or neck
Shoulder or neck pain
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, or dizziness
Headaches and/or migraines
Limited movement or locking of the temporomandibular joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
Painful clicking, grating, or popping in your jaw joint when you open or close your mouth
Changes in how your upper and lower teeth align or fit together
TMJ disorders can cause a clicking sound, a grating sensation, or popping in your jaw joint when opening and closing your mouth or chewing that causes pain and/or limits jaw movement.
Sounds without pain in the temporomandibular joints are normal, happen often, and do not need treatment.
Managing and Preventing TMJ/TMD Flare-ups
Any number of things can create issues with your TMJ disorder, but you can take steps to prevent flare-ups and minimize pain and discomfort if you do have a TMD flare-up.
The first preventive measure you can take is recognizing any activities that might cause a flare-up or increase your pain or discomfort. Once you’ve identified these activities, you can work on avoiding them or taking steps to prevent them from occurring. For example, if you have sleep bruxism (grinding or clenching your teeth at night while sleeping), you can wear a mouth guard at night. If you experience pain and discomfort after eating hard, difficult-to-chew foods like taffy, gummy candies, or jerky, avoid eating these foods as much as possible.
Things That Make TMJ Disorders Worse
While you might not be able to control the factors that cause TMJ disorders, you can control things that can make your TMD, and its symptoms, worse. Being aware of these habits can help when it comes to avoiding or preventing TMJ/TMD symptoms so you can decrease pain and TMJ disorder flare-ups.
Habits that can make temporomandibular disorders worse include:
Chewing on pens, pencils, toothpicks, or other items (These habits are often related to anxiety.)
Chewing ice, lollipops, or other hard candies
Excessively chewing gum
Grinding or clenching your teeth during the daytime
Taking large bites of food (This overworks jaw muscles.)
Sleeping on your stomach
Using your teeth as tools (e.g., opening packages, tearing tags off clothes, holding items, opening bottle caps)
Treatment Options for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
For many people, the pain and discomfort from TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved with home remedies, self-managed care, and/or other nonsurgical treatments.
Most home remedies deal with managing pain. Typical home remedies include using ice packs and taking over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. While home remedies may help reduce the pain, they are temporary solutions and won’t always resolve the problems for long periods of time.
Sedatives, muscle relaxers, and pain relievers can be used to help treat TMJ disorders. Sedatives can help you sleep more peacefully at night. Muscle relaxers will help relax the muscles in the area. Muscle relaxers are often paired with pain relievers that help with the immediate pain.
Self-managed care options are all the activities you can do yourself. These activities can include learning everything you can about your type of temporomandibular joint disorder, identifying activities that cause TMD flare-ups, setting specific goals for managing your condition, and learning meditation and relaxation techniques to reduce and/or eliminate stress that might be contributing to TMJ pain or lead to habits that cause TMJ pain (e.g., clenching or grinding teeth, chewing on non-food items).
Other Options for Preventing TMJ/TMD Pain
Additional nonsurgical treatment options for TMJ disorders that do not involve medications include using a bite guard while you sleep or occasionally during the day, wearing a dental splint or mouth guard to realign the jaw, or physical therapy options. Physical therapy for temporomandibular dysfunctions typically includes stretches and exercises to strengthen the jaw along with using ice and moist heat.
If you have a severe case, your dentist or doctor may suggest other more aggressive treatment options. Corticosteroid injections directly into the joint can be helpful. Arthrocentesis, a medical procedure during which the jaw joint is washed out with sterile fluid to rinse away any debris, may also be helpful. If these and other nonsurgical treatments are not effective, surgery may be suggested as a last resort. Surgical options are generally only used when there is something structurally wrong with the joint of a patient with a TMJ disorder.
What to Do If You Think You Have a TMJ Disorder
If you think you have a TMJ Disorder or have been diagnosed with one, do not ignore the effects of it. Take steps to avoid things that can increase pain or worsen the condition. Consult a dentist or doctor who can help you find ways to treat the condition. Fortunately, there are multiple things a person can do to manage temporomandibular joint disorders, decrease pain, and eliminate symptoms.
Learn how the TMD experts at Sleep Better Columbus can help you manage and treat your TMJ/TMD while preventing TMJ/TMD pain and symptoms. Schedule your consultation today online or call 614-777-7350.
The second-most common cause of chronic headaches is temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which is sometimes called TMJ dysfunction. These TMD headaches can greatly diminish quality of life. Thankfully, non-invasive treatment options can reduce or eliminate your chronic TMD headache.
What is a Temporomandibular Disorder?
A temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a disorder of the temporomandibular joints, jaw, muscles, and nerves associated with chronic facial pain. TMD causes pain in the jaw joints and the muscles and ligaments controlling your jaw’s movement. Temporomandibular dysfunctions or disorders (TMD), can have a significant impact on your life by affecting your ability to chew, yawn, or speak easily.
Why Do Temporomandibular Disorders Cause Headaches?
Temporomandibular disorders cause headaches because the proximity of the jaw to the head means pain easily travels upward. The many nerves located near the temporomandibular joint contribute to the aches becoming more intense. The two primary reasons for a TMD headache are jaw tension and a misaligned bite.
Jaw tension is the most common cause of a temporomandibular disorder headache. Bruxism, the act of clenching your teeth, tires the muscles and joints surrounding the teeth, which causes joint pain and can wear down the teeth. Pain from the jaw travels up to the temples and can range from mild to severe. Grinding your teeth can also cause cramping of the jaw which can result in pulsating headaches that feel like migraines.
A misaligned bite puts strain on your jaw and is another common reason for a TMD headache. Trying to keep the jaw in proper positioning stresses and tires the tissues, including the facial muscles, surrounding the temporomandibular joint, and when this occurs, it causes a headache.
What are the Symptoms of a TMD Headache?
A TMD headache is pain in the head, face, and cheek caused by a temporomandibular joint disorder. The TMJ disorder causes pain in the temporomandibular joint, and that pain spreads upward to other parts of your head.
Frequent headaches can be symptomatic of TMJ issues. Common symptoms of TMD headaches may also include:
achiness in your neck and/or shoulders
atypical pain in your cheek muscles
challenges with swallowing
clicking or popping sounds when moving your jaw
difficulty or pain when chewing food (more severe head pain may occur when chewing)
inability to open your mouth fully
pain over your eyes, in the ear area, or in the temples
sore TMJ (jaw) hinges
sensitive teeth, but no obvious dental problems
tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
How is Temporomandibular Dysfunction Diagnosed?
Dentists, physiotherapists, or doctors can diagnose temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) in a dental checkup or physical examination. They will assess your jaw’s range of motion when you open and close your mouth, feel the areas surrounding your temporomandibular (jaw) joints while you open and close your mouth, and press on your jaw and certain areas of your face to find areas of tenderness, pain, or discomfort.
They might also use imaging tests for a closer look at your temporomandibular joints and the structures surrounding them. The imaging tests might include a panoramic X-ray to assess your jaw and teeth, a CT (computed tomography) scan to get a more detailed view, and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to assess the soft tissues that surround your temporomandibular joints.
Treating Temporomandibular Joint Disorders and TMD Headaches
The underlying cause of your temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and the severity of your pain are two factors that are taken into consideration when determining the TMJ treatment that is right for you. Noninvasive options should be tried first. Treatment options can include home remedies, medications, self-managed care, and/or other nonsurgical treatments.
Home Remedies and Medications
Home remedies include eating soft foods, applying heat or cold packs to the affected area, and taking over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. Home remedies may help reduce the pain, but they are temporary solutions that won’t always resolve the problems long-term.
Sedatives and muscle relaxers can also help treat TMJ disorders. Sedatives can help you sleep more peacefully at night. Muscle relaxers relax the muscles in the area and are often paired with pain relievers that help with immediate pain.
Self-managed care treatment options include any activities you can do yourself. These activities might be learning all that you can about your type of temporomandibular joint disorder, identifying any activities that can contribute to TMD flare-ups, setting specific goals for managing your TMD, and learning relaxation techniques or meditation to reduce and/or eliminate any stress that could contribute to TMJ pain or lead to habits that cause TMJ pain (e.g., chewing on non-food items, clenching teeth, grinding teeth).
Other Nonsurgical Treatments for your TMD Headache and TMJ Pain
Additional nonsurgical treatment options like oral appliances and physical therapy do not involve medications. Oral appliances include bite guards that can be worn while you sleep or occasionally during the day, and wearing a dental splint or mouth guard to realign the jaw. Physical therapy for Aggressive Treatment Options for Severe TMD
For severe TMD, your dentist or doctor may suggest other more aggressive treatment options. Corticosteroid injections directly into the joint are often helpful. Arthrocentesis, a medical procedure during which the jaw joint is washed out with sterile fluid to rinse away any debris, may also provide relief. If these and other nonsurgical treatments are not effective, a surgical option may be suggested as a last resort. Surgical options are generally only used when there is something structurally wrong with the jaw joint of a patient who has a temporomandibular disorder.
To learn more about using oral appliances to treat TMJ and reduce or eliminate your TMD headaches, call Sleep Better Columbus at 614-777-7350 or contact us online to speak with a TMJ specialist.
The term TMJ Disorder or TMD refers to a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint and the muscles around it. It’s estimated up to 10 million Americans experience the pain, discomfort, and dysfunction in the jaw joint and its surrounding muscles due to some form of TMD. However, the number could be even higher as many cases remain undiagnosed.
People with TMJ issues often don’t seek medical help because the symptoms are intermittent. Although they may manage the condition themselves, painkillers and heat/ice packs only alleviate symptoms temporarily and do not address the underlying issue.
What is a TMJ Disorder?
Although TMJ disorders can vary among individuals, medical professionals, and researchers agree that it can be classified into three basic categories.
1. Myofascial Pain
Myofascial Pain is the most common type of TMJ disorder and involves discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw movement. Common symptoms of myofascial pain include headaches, earaches, soreness around the face, neck, and shoulders, and popping or clicking sounds when opening or closing the mouth.
2. Internal Derangement of the Joint
When there is an injury to the condyle, a dislocated jaw, or a displaced disc, it is referred to as internal derangement of the joint. This type of disorder also causes pain and restricted movement, along with a grating sensation when attempting to open the mouth.
Arthritis is the third category, which refers to a joint disorder that causes degeneration and inflammation. It can also affect the temporomandibular joint. Symptoms commonly associated with arthritis are joint stiffness, limited range of motion, and chronic pain.
A Combination of TMJ Disorders
When someone is diagnosed with TMJ, they may have one, two, or all three of the associated conditions. Additionally, there are other issues that can coincide with these joint disorders, such as fibromyalgia, sleep disturbances, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Many people with TMJ have a mild form and can collaborate with their dentists and physicians to develop an effective treatment strategy.
Who is at Risk of Developing TMD?
Having certain risk factors can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing TMJ, but it is possible to develop the disorder even without these factors. The presence of multiple risk factors increases the likelihood of having TMJ.
Continuously engaging in stress-related actions like clenching your jaw, biting your lip or objects, grinding your teeth, or chewing gum, ice, or taffy for extended periods can up your risk of developing TMJ. Certain medical conditions can also raise the risk of developing a joint disorder, particularly if you have a misaligned jaw, teeth, or bite. Having jaw or facial deformities may also cause problems with your temporomandibular joint. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can impact the temporomandibular joint. Additionally, an inflamed membrane lining the temporomandibular joint can cause TMJ. Fractures or dislocations of the face or jaw can also cause long-term problems.
TMJ is more commonly diagnosed in women than in men, with most cases occurring in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. However, TMJ can also affect men, and elderly patients with poorly fitted dentures may be at risk of developing TMJ.
TMJ Disorder Treatment Options
The treatment for TMJ can vary depending on the cause and severity of your condition. The main objective of the treatment is to alleviate the pain and enhance the functioning of the jaw joint. Sleep Better Columbus‘ experts can assist you in identifying the probable cause of your TMJ and initiating a treatment plan that targets the underlying issue with your temporomandibular joint and surrounding muscle tissue, rather than just addressing the symptoms.
Strengthening Muscles and Reducing Jaw Clenching
The treatment options for your condition may involve physical therapy aimed at strengthening the muscles around the affected joint, as well as stretches to alleviate pain and promote muscle relaxation. Additionally, your dentist may suggest using a dental splint while you sleep to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching. If you participate in sports, your medical care may involve the use of a mouth guard to safeguard your teeth and jaw.
Simple changes to your lifestyle can help ease the pain and discomfort caused by TMJ. Proper posture maintenance, reducing stress, practicing relaxation techniques, and avoiding excessive chewing on non-food items, gum, taffy, and ice can significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms.
Medications and Procedures
You can use medications to treat TMJ symptoms. Taking pain relievers during the day can help alleviate any discomfort. Your dentist may recommend a muscle relaxant or sedative to take at night to help your body relax and prevent teeth grinding or jaw clenching. Often this can help reduce or eliminate nighttime jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
There are outpatient procedures available for TMJ treatment. One of them is joint irrigation, which involves rinsing away debris and has helped some patients. Surgery is usually a last resort and only recommended in extreme cases.
Consult the TMJ Disorder Specialists at Sleep Better Columbus
TMJ can be a painful and debilitating condition if left untreated. Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options available to help reduce the symptoms of TMJ and improve the functioning of the jaw joint.
Sleep Better Columbus‘ team of experienced dentists can assist you in finding a personalized solution for your TMJ condition and helping you enjoy life without pain or discomfort. With the right diagnosis and treatment plan, you can live a pain-free life with maximum jaw functioning. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive approach to treating TMJ disorders. We look forward to helping you find the ideal solution for your condition!
Call Sleep Better Columbus today at (614) 777-7350 or reach out to us online to see how we can help reduce your pain and help you sleep better tonight!