It’s amazing how small things can have a big impact on your life.
A drawing from your child can brighten your whole day. Getting stuck in traffic can spoil your mood.
Jaw pain can make everything you do seem like a chore. When it hurts to talk or it hurts to eat, it’s hard to take pleasure in a conversation with a friend or in a meal.
At Legacy Smiles, we don’t think your jaw pain should detract from everyday activities like spending time with your family and friends. Instead, we want to relieve your pain so you can get on with your life.
Your jaw pain could be a symptom of a TMJ disorder or TMD, and it is a good reason to call our dentist office right away if you live in or near Billings, MT.
How Do TMJ Problems Start?
That’s a great question, which doesn’t always have an easy answer.
TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint. You actually have two of these joints, one each on either side of your jaw. They are ball-and-socket joints that connect your jawbone to your skull.
They allow your jaw to open and close and to move from side to side. TMJ disorders can be the result of a problem with your joints or with the muscles around your joints.
Here are some reasons you may experience TMJ issues:
Your jaw can become injured like the other joints in your body. A traumatic impact can cause muscle tissue to swell or knock your jaw out of alignment.
You also can injure your jaw as a result of overuse or by exaggerated movement of your jaw.
- Habitual behavior
Biting your fingernails and excessive gum chewing are two ways you may be contributing to jaw problems.
Another problem behavior is clenching your teeth or grinding your teeth together. (We’ll speak more on this later.)
- Alignment problems
Some people live with teeth that are misaligned. This may affect the appearance of your smile, or it may affect how your teeth fit together when you close your mouth.
Arthritis is the first example to come to mind, but it’s not the only disease that can affect your TMJ. These joints can become inflamed or infected like other joints in your body.
- Prescription medicine
Medications designed to treat one condition can sometimes have side effects that cause other problems.
Any one of these problems or a combination of them could be causing your TMJ problems.
Symptoms Of TMJ Disorders
Pain is a big clue that you have a TMJ problem.
You may feel pain in your jaw, face, neck, shoulders, or upper back. You may have headaches (including migraines) or earaches.
While pain is common among people who are suffering from TMJ disorders, it’s not the only symptom. Other problems may include limited jaw movement, the inability to open or close your jaw, and clicking or popping sounds when you do move your jaw.
Experts at the Academy of Orofacial Pain recommend a number of self-treatment options.
These can include avoiding activities that put added strain on you TMJ. Don’t play musical instruments that harm your jaw while you are experiencing your symptoms. Don’t chew things that aren’t food, and avoiding eating foods that are harder to chew.
Massaging painful areas may help to relieve pain as well. Ice and heat can be useful, too.
If these do not relieve your symptoms or your symptoms return after you stop your self-treatment, then you should get in touch with Legacy Smiles.
Earlier we noted that teeth clenching and grinding are a common cause of TMJ problems. Many people do these things in their sleep or as a reaction to stress in their lives.
We will examine your teeth for symptoms of clenching or grinding. If we see the tell-tale signs, then we can recommend occlusal splint therapy. We can make a special mouthpiece to prevent your teeth from touching one another.
The mouthpiece also can “train” your jaw to rest in a more comfortable position, which can alleviate the added pressure that comes from clenching and grinding.
We will examine your bite to see if any alignment issues are contributing to your TMJ problems, too.
There Is Nothing To Gain From Your Pain
Living your life will be easier when you alleviate the daily pains and other problems that come from having a TMD. If you live in or near Billings, MT, our dentist and the rest of our team at Legacy Smiles can help make those pains go away.