What is TMJ and How Can My Dentist Help Me?

TMJ Pain

What is TMJ and how can my dentist help me with my symptoms? November is TMJ Awareness Month; a national movement to help an estimated 35 million people in the United States understand this ailment and how to find relief. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint where your jaw connects to your skull and it functions as a sliding hinge to keep the movement of your jaw functioning smoothly as you open and close your mouth, chew, and speak. Temporomandibular joint disorders can occur if the joint cartilage is inflamed, erodes, or becomes misaligned due to injury or overuse. Because the temporomandibular joint can move in many different directions, these joints are some of the most complex in your body. TMJ is often overlooked during medical exams and could even be misdiagnosed, however Dr. Ashely Niles, of Niles Family Dentistry can help you identify and treat the cause of your pain rather than just the symptoms. 

What Causes TMJ?

Are you experiencing the painful effects of TMJ disorder? This excruciating ailment affects millions of Americans, especially women between the ages of 20 and 40. If you experience throbbing tension headaches, unexplained soreness in your neck and shoulders or pain when chewing and speaking, chances are you have a temporomandibular joint disorder. 

The cause of your temporomandibular joint disorder can determine which or how many of these symptoms you have, but TMJ does not always have an obvious cause. Dr. Niles can help make a proper diagnosis for what ails you, and help you get on the path to recovery.

There are a few common origins of a TMJ problem:

  • Injury or dislocation
  • Teeth clenching (often from stress)
  • Arthritis – degenerative bone defects
  • Misalignment of the upper and lower teeth when you close your mouth
  • Poor posture – If you are in front of a computer all day, maintain good posture by taking short breaks to rest your arms and loosen up your back and neck muscles.

Symptoms of TMJ

There are many signs and symptoms of TMJ and it’s often hard to know for sure if you have TMJ.  One or all of these symptoms can also be present for other problems. Although Dr. Niles needs to perform an examination to properly diagnose TMJ disorder, there are some signs and symptoms that can prompt you to schedule an appointment with her by calling 720-744-0001. 

Some of the most common TMJ symptoms include:

  • Jaw clicking, popping, or locking in place are clear indications that there is something wrong.
  • Pain when your mouth is opened widely to yawn or while chewing
  • Headaches (often mimicking migraines), earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
  • Tenderness of the jaw muscles 
  • Swelling of the face
  • Neck and shoulder pain or stiffness

How Can Dr. Niles Help Me With TMJ?

In order to treat and eliminate the root cause of TMJ disorder, schedule a visit with Dr. Niles. Your mouth and teeth are part of the system that includes your temporomandibular joint. During a routine dental examination, she will check for tenderness in your jaw muscles to see if TMJ might be present. Because TMJ can be caused by tooth and jaw alignment problems, there are dental treatments that may help. While there is no single cure for TMJ, there are different treatments that may reduce your symptoms dramatically. Dr. Niles may recommend one or more of the following: 

  • Medications such as aspirin, over-the-counter pain-relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants can help relieve the pain caused by TMJ disorder.
  • Moist heat to relieve some of the muscle spasms and pain.
  • Cold packs will decrease jaw swelling if that is one of your  symptoms.
  • Avoid overworking the jaw joint by eating hard or crunchy foods or chewing gum. Temporarily eat softer foods that minimize the need for chewing.
  • Learning relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension and control the jaw tension in your jaw muscles, followed with stretching techniques designed to release jaw tension. Try gently massaging the muscles in your jaw to release tension.
  • Dr. Niles may also suggest you seek training or counseling to help eliminate stress.

If your TMJ disorder comes from teeth grinding or clenching, Dr. Niles may recommend that you wear a custom night guard to keep your upper teeth from grinding against your lower teeth. In addition to alleviating TMJ symptoms, this night guard will prevent wear on your teeth and reduce the harmful effects of tooth clenching and grinding that can lead to other problems. 

Custom Night Guard 

Custom-designed night guards are molded and designed to fit your own mouth, teeth. These guards provide you with a better, more reliable option than an over-the-counter version. Custom night guards are made of a firm, plastic material and are recommended for patients who clench or grind their teeth at night as a way to protect their teeth and jaw joints from pain and damage. A proper fit is important to ensure that your teeth will be properly protected while you sleep.  

TMJ Relief is Achievable

Through daily oral care of brushing at least two times each day, and flossing your teeth at least once a day, you can build a solid foundation for maintaining healthy teeth and gums along with regular checkups with Dr. Niles.

Niles Family Dentistry is located in Niwot, Colorado, with convenient access to the communities of Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette, and Louisville.  Dr. Niles offers state-of-the-art dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry and eco-friendly dentistry for the whole family. Call for your appointment today at (720) 744-0001.

If you are concerned that you may have symptoms that indicate TMJ, please make an appointment with Dr. Niles. Suffering doesn’t have to be part of your daily life. You deserve to feel relief from the pain and discomfort of TMJ disorder, and the only real way to do that is through proper diagnosis and treatment.

Ashley Niles

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