Imagine two friends having lunch together. They’ve been friends for a long time, so they both know when something is wrong with the other.
One friend, let’s call him Steve, notices that the other — we’ll call him Bill — has barely touched his food. Steve wouldn’t call Bill a fast eater, but he usually finishes his plate a little sooner than Steve does.
“You look like you are in pain. What’s up?” Steve asks.
Bill replies that his jaw hurts … or rather, it hurts when he eats. He thought getting a hamburger wouldn’t be that much of a problem, but he was wrong.
Bill explains that he’s been having this problem for a few months whenever he eats anything tougher than scrambled eggs.
“You may want to call Holladay Dental Studio,” Steve suggests. “It sounds like you could have a TMJ disorder.”
What Is TMJ? And What Is A TMJ Disorder?
You may have heard someone talking about “having TMJ” by which they usually mean they have a TMJ problem or possibly a TMJ disorder.
If we wanted to get technical, we could point out that everyone has TMJ. That is your temporomandibular joint.
If you place your fingers close your ears on each side of your face, you can feel your TMJ moving when you open and close your mouth. These joints allow your jaw to move up and down and to a degree from side-to-side.
Most people will have TMJ problems at one time or another. Thankfully, this usually does not rise to the level of a TMJ disorder, which is sometimes referred to as a TMD.
Symptoms might include jaw pain (such as what Bill described) either while eating or after you have finished, lingering jaw pains, and facial pains.
In some cases, you may experience headaches, earaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain.
Often all it takes is a pain reliever and eating softer foods for a short time for the pain to subside.
When Your TMJ Issue May Be More Serious
In more serious cases, you may notice other issues as well. For instance, you may have difficulty opening or close your jaw. You may have a limited range of motion, or your jaw may become stuck temporarily.
In these instances, you may be able to use ice or moist heat.
If the tissues around your jaw are swollen, ice may reduce that swelling and numb the pain you may be feeling. Moist heat is useful for jaw mobility issues.
If your symptoms don’t story or they recur whenever you stop your self-treatment, then you may want to contact our dentist office in Holladay, UT.
You also should pay attention to when your symptoms occur.
Do you feel pain around meal times? Do you notice the symptoms after times of stress? Do you frequently wake up with jaw pain or headaches?
TMJ can arise from multiple causes, such as arthritis, injuries, and infections, but we are particularly concerned with cases that arise as a result of bruxism.
What Is Bruxism, And How Can You Treat It?
Webster’s defines bruxism as “the habit of unconsciously gritting or grinding the teeth, especially in situations of stress or during sleep.”
Stress can develop from work, from our relationships, from financial matters, and from health situations. We know this isn’t close to every possible cause of stress, but you get the point. Stress can happen for any number of reasons.
One way you may be coping with that stress is by grinding your teeth even if you don’t realize it’s happening.
If you suspect this may be a possible cause of your TMJ issues, then we can take a look at your mouth. We can check the alignment of your teeth, and we can look for signs of teeth grinding.
Not only is this bad for your teeth, but it puts added pressure on your jaw joint, which could explain the symptoms you have been experiencing.
Our treatment options could include:
- Splint therapy — This involves making a mouthguard that you can wear during the day or while you are sleeping at night to keep your teeth separated.
- Medication — This can be used to reduce swelling around your jaw.
- Bite Adjustments — This may not be the first option, but it’s something to consider if the position of your jaw is contributing to your issues.
Take Steve’s Advice
Steve may not be a real person, but his advice is still good to follow. If you suspect that you may have a TMJ disorder and you live in Holladay, UT, Salt Lake City, or anywhere in between, please contact us by calling 801-997-1137 or by filling out our online form.
At Holladay Dental Studio, we want to do our part to help keep you pain-free.