TMJ is just the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull. Actually, if you put your fingers in the center of your ears, you could feel this joint while opening and closing your mouth. Unfortunately, this little joint causes a great deal of orofacial pain for Americans today. There have been many cases in America of people with misaligned TMJ joints, sometimes called TM Disorder (TMD). To be precise, 35 million Americans report some kind of TMJ pain to their dentists. In this short article, we will take a look at some of the facts for this increasingly common disorder.
The causes of TMJ pain vary widely. Some people complain of orofacial pain after a significant car accident or a hit to the face. Others see a gradual increase in pain in the jaw area over time. Many people who develop TMD grind their teeth at night, which, if left untreated, could lead to a deterioration of the TMJ, fatigued facial muscles, and the destruction of the sufferer’s teeth. As you can see, there are different causes for TMD, some of which happen while we sleep.
Most people report similar symptoms for TMJ disorder. Sufferers report TMJ pain that could include stinging, burning, or even tingling in the jaw area. TMD sufferers also experience difficulty chewing certain foods, and may even feel clicking or popping in the TM joint while eating or talking. People with TMD also might wake up with a locked jaw or experience a locked jaw while keeping their mouth open for extended periods of time, like during a dental procedure. There may also be a swelling in the face, and TMD sufferers teeth may be extra sensitive due to all of the nightly grinding. Pain and tension can be referred from the jaw to the neck and shoulders. Some TMD sufferers also experience a tingling sensation in the ears.
In recent years, much research has gone into understanding how to best treat TMJ disorder. Many doctors have found that correcting postural alignment is key to success in helping people manage this disorder. These doctors recommend patients use at-home self-management exercises to reduce the stress on the TM joint. Some postural problems that researchers have often found in TMJ sufferers include trigger point activation in the trapezius muscles, as well as forward head posture. Some exercises that have worked for patients include anti-gravity postural alignment exercises, such as retractions of the cervical spine. Another popular exercise is placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth while opening as wide as the patient can. The patient then holds this position for about 10 seconds, and repeats 10 times. If these exercises are taught to TMD sufferers with clarity, they can take them home and work on them every day. With each passing day, TMD patients have fewer headaches and less jaw pain.
Orofacial pain symptoms should always be brought to your dentist’s attention. Thankfully, there are many treatment options out there for people who need them. Your dentist may recommend you visit an orofacial pain specialist, who will take into account your specific orofacial pain symptoms. Some orofacial pain specialists will teach you postural exercises, and they may prescribe muscle relaxers at the start of treatment to help decrease the pain. Orofacial pain specialists can also help to custom make a mouth guard to wear at night so you will reduce nighttime clenching. TMJ pain relief has also been found through various relaxation methods such as yoga, biofeedback, and meditation. Some TMD sufferers have also found relief from TMJ pain through acupuncture and massage therapy. So whether you or someone you know is suffering from orofacial pain, there is no reason to let your jaw ruin your life. Keep trying these treatment options till you find full relief from TMJ pain.