Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a condition that affects the jaw joints and muscles. It can be caused by stress, malformation in the jaw itself, or head injuries, and is characterized by pain, stiffness, popping or clicking noises in the jaw joint, earaches, and issues with biting and chewing. It can also cause you to grind your teeth, both at night and throughout the day. However, TMJ does more than just cause discomfort; it can also have lasting negative effects on your teeth.
What Could Happen?
Left untreated, TMJ can cause serious issues with bite alignment and affect the strength of your teeth. If you have crowns or veneers, they can be damaged by the grinding and stress that is associated with TMJ.
How is TMJ Treated?
There are a variety of treatment options for TMJ. The main treatment is an oral splint or a mouth guard that is designed to keep your upper and lower teeth apart so that your bite is not affected. While splints are typically worn at night, your dentist or orthodontist may have you wear one during the day if your TMJ symptoms are especially severe.
Your dentist or orthodontist may also suggest using over-the-counter pain medications to reduce swelling and inflammation in the jaw, or could prescribe tricyclic antidepressants to offer some pain relief.
Some instances of TMJ can also be treated through simple lifestyle changes, especially if the tooth-grinding associated with your TMJ is triggered by anxiety. You may find relief from symptoms by reducing stress, choosing to eat softer foods, and trying relaxation techniques such as meditation.
Surgery may be required in severe cases, but this is a rare occurrence and is usually a last resort after other treatment methods have failed.
TMJ – More Than Just Jaw Pain
If you think that you’re experiencing symptoms of TMJ, the best course of action is to visit your dentist or orthodontist as soon as possible for an examination. They will be able to advise you on treatment options and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce or eliminate your symptoms and keep you free from jaw pain, as well as lasting dental damage.