More than 15% of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain. The joint, ligaments and muscles used for chewing and grinding may all be involved. At Dental Professionals, we can help identify the source of the pain with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays. Often, it's a sinus, toothache or an early stage of periodontal disease. But for some patients, the cause of the pain is not so easily diagnosed.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the most commonly used joint in the body, is located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. It permits the lower jaw to move and function. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joints. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control its position and movement.
Symptoms of TM disorders
• Pain in or around the ear, fullness, ringing in the ear
• Tenderness of the jaw
• Painful clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
• Headaches and neck aches, pain in the shoulders
• Limited ability to open the mouth
• Chronic headaches
• Jaw muscle stiffness
• A bite that doesn’t feel quite right
• Vision problems
Diagnosing TM disorders
Diagnosis may involve a series of steps in order to determine if only minor, relatively non-invasive treatment may be needed. Part of your clinical examination at Dental Professionals includes checking head, neck, joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. We’ll note if pain is experienced when mild pressure is applied to the joint itself or to the chewing muscles. Your complete medical history will be reviewed and your dentist may take x-rays and make a "cast" of your teeth to see how your bite fits together. We may also request specialized x-rays for the TM joints.
Options may include:
• Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles, increase mobility and healing
• Moist heat from a heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a warm, moist towel can improve function and reduce pain
• Ice packs to decrease inflammation, numb pain and promote healing
• Soft or blended foods that allow the jaw to rest temporarily; avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods such as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits
• Avoid extreme jaw movements such as wide yawning, loud singing and gum chewing
• Avoid cradling the telephone, which may irritate jaw and neck muscles
• Short-term use of over-the-counter pain medicines or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen
• When necessary, stronger pain or anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs can be prescribed
• Learning techniques for reducing and managing stress
A night guard or bite plate can be used to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth. This fits comfortably over your four front teeth (upper or lower) and keeps your canine and back teeth apart, diminishing muscle contractions in the head and face and minimizing the intensity of your nighttime clenching forces. The therapeutic protocol used at Dental Professionals is non-invasive and proven effective in reducing headaches and migraines.
Sources: Headacheprevention.com, TMJ Association
At Dental Professionals we can fit you for a nightguard to prevent you from grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep. We also offer other treatments for temporomandibular joint disorders, such as stress reducing exercises or muscle relaxants, proven successful for many.
End the pain...schedule a consultation with the experts at Dental Professionals.