Jaw Pain & TMJ Dysfunction

November is TMJ Awareness Month. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction.

What is TMJ?

Aches and pains in the jaw can be caused by a variety of reasons. But one of the more common causes is TMD. To find out the source of your discomfort, see your dentist, Dr Fred Wong in Glendora. He will assess your symptoms, examine your mouth, possibly take x-rays, possibly take impression of your teeth and bite, and compile a case history to determine the source of your pain and discomfort. Since evaluation is a critical part of diagnosis for TMD.

Your Temporomandibular Joint (called TMJ)  is a hinge which connects your lower jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, in front of each ear. The joints work together to enable you to move your jaw up and down and side to side, so you can talk, chew, swallow, and yawn. The structures which work together include muscles, ligaments, the upper jaw bone and the mandible (lower jaw), along with two joints (which are the TMJs). Although people say they “have TMJ”, they mean to say they have TMJ Dysfunction or TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder), since the TMJ is an integral part of jaw structure.

TMD occurs when the joints, ligaments and muscles used for chewing and grinding food experience problems due to arthritis, dislocation, jaw malformation or injury to the condyle. These conditions cause pain whenever the muscles move, especially with repetitive motion. 

TMD Treatments

Treatment for TMJ Dysfunction varies depending on severity of symptoms relative to quality of life. You could have TMD yet function well despite the condition. On the other hand, some patients experience severe pain and debilitating, associated symptoms due to TMD. 

Common Courses of Action to Treat TMD: 

Vector illustration of treatment of tmj disorder
  • Use moist heat or cold packs could relieve symptoms. Apply an ice pack to the side of your face and temple area for about 10 minutes five times a day or more. If that doesn’t work, try using a moist heating pad at the site of pain. Be careful not to burn yourself. Don’t sleep with a heating pad. 
  • Stick with soft foods. Don’t eat anything chewy, such as bagels or chewy candy. 
  • Avoid chewing gum, chewing on ice, hard nuts, or bagels; whistling, grinding your teeth (we will cover this in an upcoming blog post.) 
  • Try jaw mobility exercises. These strengthen jaw muscles, stretch and relax the jaw, increase mobility, reduce jaw clicking and promote jaw healing (sometimes your chiropractor can help you and teach you that ) 
  • You could be referred to a myofascial specialist.
  • Your dentist could prescribe medications or you could take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like naproxen or ibuprofen, which can relieve muscle pain and swelling.
  • Use a splint. Dr. Wong may recommend a splint, which you would wear while you sleep. There are several kinds of splints (hard/soft /thick/thin) depends on your needs and your symptoms.
  • Give acupuncture a go. 
  • Apply for injections dermal filler (like Botox). Your insurance may not cover these.  
  • There is no one reason for having TMD, most of the time is multifactorial sometimes an orthodontist can help you by fixing your bite with braces.
  • Inform your dentist of your past history of TMD and possible need to do many appointment for certain procedures as to minimize the time of jaw opening.

About Dr. Fred Wong of Blue Ocean Dentistry in Glendora, California

Dr. Fred Wong and the staff at Blue Ocean Dentistry use the latest available dental treatments, equipment, and materials – all of which make a marked difference in our patients’ experiences. We are committed to helping our patients achieve optimal dental health. We creatively combine dental science and artistry — which can literally redesign your smile. Since even a subtle change in your smile will help you to project self-confidence and high self-esteem, we love helping you feel good about yourself. We deliver the finest dental care at the most reasonable cost and accept most dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit. For more about the dental treatment plans we offer or to schedule an appointment, call today (626) 852-6999. 

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