Such a small joint, yet so important to daily life. That is the TMJ, or temporomandibular joint. Place your fingertips lightly on your face, right in front of your ears. Now move your mouth. Do you feel the movement of the joints in your jaw? That is the TMJ.
Most of us take this little joint for granted. In fact, if you’ve never had problems with it, you likely didn’t even know the name for it! We eat all our favorite foods without issue. We laugh at jokes, smile with our friends, belt it out in the shower, and yawn whenever we feel like yawning.
If you suffer from TMJ pain (also known as TMJ disorder or TMD) however, these motions that we perform all day long can bring on anything from mild discomfort to excruciating pain.
The tiny temporomandibular joint happens to be one of the most complicated in the body, combining hinge and sliding actions in order to allow our mouths to do all that they do. The joint may erode due to arthritis or other connective tissue diseases. An injury may damage the joint or disc. If you grind your teeth at night, you are at a higher risk for TMD. But because of the TMJ’s unique and complex construction, it can be difficult to determine a root cause of the problem.
At Kirchner Dental, Dr. Kirchner or Dr. Sherry can help treat your TMJ pain. To book an appointment, call our Jeffersonville, IN office at 812-406-0914.
What are the symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
TMD may cause a wide variety of symptoms beyond the obvious jaw pain. If you’ve been experiencing any combination of the following, you may want to contact Kirchner Dental for a consultation.
- A feeling of tiredness or fatigue in the facial muscles
- A sudden bad bite, as if your teeth don’t fit together properly
- Lockjaw — when you open your mouth too wide, it gets stuck in position
- A noise — clicking, popping, grating — when you move your mouth. This may or may not be accompanied by pain.
- You are having difficulty chewing
- Headaches or migraines
- Earaches without an infection, or ringing in the ears
- Pain or soreness in the upper back, neck, or shoulders
- Facial swelling near the jaw
Are There Home Remedies to Help TMJ Pain?
TMD symptoms can be unbearable and make even the most basic functions like eating and speaking difficult. There are ways you can try to manage your pain and ease your symptoms until you come for your appointment with Dr. Kirchner or Dr. Sherry.
- Both heat and ice may help relieve pain. Ice numbs your nerves and is effective when your pain manifests as occasional sharp jabs. Use ice packs wrapped in towels, and hold them to the side of your face. Never leave the packs on for more than twenty minutes, or you risk frostbite. For a duller but persistent pain, use moist heat, which will stimulate blood circulation and help relax the muscles. Run washcloths soaked in hot water and hold them to your face.
- We know that it’s easier said than done, but try to keep stress to a minimum. Especially if your jaw pain is due to teeth clenching and grinding, anxiety may be a contributing factor. If you can’t eliminate the sources of stress, try meditation or other relaxation techniques.
- Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be effective for temporary pain relief. Use only as directed, of course!
- Stick to soft foods. Stay away from anything chewy, crunchy, or hard. The idea is to rest your jaw and make it do as little work as possible.
- Gentle jaw exercises and massage help to relax the muscles and increase blood circulation. With your fingers, massage the muscles around the TMJ several times per day, both with your mouth closed and open.
How Can Kirchner Dental Help?
At Kirchner Dental, Dr. Kirchner or Dr. Sherry will conduct a thorough examination to determine the source of your pain.
We can provide you with a custom-made occlusal guard, or nightguard, that you wear while you sleep. This appliance will hold your jaw in a position that removes pressure from it, allowing it to heal.
In some cases, TMJ is caused by malocclusion, or a bad bite. If this is the case for you, orthodontics may be the best solution. We offer Invisalign and ClearCorrect, which will fix your bite without unsightly metal braces.
We can also refer you to a physical therapist.