Do you have difficulty eating, or does your jaw hurt after a meal? Does your jaw often feel tender? Has your jaw ever become difficult to open and close?
Do you suffer from frequent headaches? Does your neck feel sore? How about the muscles in your shoulders?
If you said yes to one or more of those questions, you could be experiencing temporomandibular joint disorder, sometimes referred to as TMJ disorder or TMD.
We’ll explain what may be causing your condition and how we can help at Legacy Smiles in Billings.
What are TMJ disorders?
TMJ disorders, or TMD, affect the temporomandibular joint. You can find this joint by touching the sides of your face at the “hinge” where your jaw connects to your skull.
This joint makes it possible for you to open and close your mouth and move your jaw from side to side. Without this joint, eating and talking would not be possible.
If you are experiencing TMD, your jaw or face may feel sore or tender while you eat or after you finish eating. As we alluded to above, you also might feel pain in your face, shoulders and neck.
You could have headaches (including migraines) and earaches as a result of TMD. Some people also experience dizzy spells because of TMJ disorders.
You also might feel a popping sensation or hear a clicking sound when you move your jaw. It’s possible that your jaw movement may be limited, or your mouth may become stuck temporarily.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you know how they feel. You probably would also like some relief from them.
What causes TMD?
TMD can develop over time or as a result of a traumatic event.
If you clench or grind your teeth, you are putting added pressure on the temporomandibular joint. This extra stress can affect the muscles around your joint, and it can cause the soreness and tenderness you may be feeling.
Many people aren’t aware if or when they are clenching or grinding their teeth. You may do this without realizing it in response to stressful events you are going through in your personal life or at work. You might be doing this at night while you are sleeping as well.
Arthritis is another common cause of TMJ disorders. Arthritis is defined as the “inflammation of one or more joints”, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can affect the joints in your mouth just like it affects other joints in your body.
Traumatic impacts, like those you might experience playing hockey or other contact sports, can also cause TMD. You can experience minor or major injuries to your jaw, just like you can twist or sprain your ankle.
How can my dentist help?
Our own Dr. Stuart has treated many patients for TMJ disorders throughout his career. He estimates that around 75 percent of people subconsciously grind or clench their teeth.
This can cause added wear and tear on your teeth, your jaw, and your joints.
For some patients, we can treat their TMD with occlusal split therapy. That’s a fancy way of saying we can create a mouthpiece for you.
You wear this mouthpiece at night. While it is in place, you are not able to grind your teeth together. This also take the pressure off your jaw while you are asleep.
These mouthpieces also gently stretch your jaw muscles, which helps them relax.
For other patients, we make bite adjustments, and we may design crowns for their teeth. We can change the position of your jaw in a way that will relieve the pressure you are feeling now.
As we mentioned above, sometimes the effects of TMD are felt beyond your mouth and jaw. Many patients who are experiencing TMD also have problems with their cervical spines. Your body may compensate in other ways as a response to the pain.
With that in mind, you may be referred to a chiropractor or physical therapist as part of your treatment.
Ready to end your pain?
You don’t have to feel pain while eating and speaking. You deserve relief from your headaches and from the pain you’re feeling in your shoulders and neck.
You don’t have to put up with clicking or popping in your jaw any more.
If you are ready to feel some relief, call Legacy Smiles at 406-794-3114. Make an appointment at our office located at 2700 Grand Avenue, Suite D, in Billings to feel better today.