About Your TMJ and Its TMJ Disorder
Your temporomandibular joint is a complex joint. When you chew, eat, talk, sing, yawn, bite, and swallow, you use your temporomandibular joints. They’re necessary joints and get used a lot. In fact, you use these joints more than any other joint in your body, and they are likely the most complex joints you have. It’s no wonder that one third of the adults in the United States suffer from some type of TMJ disorder.
Two of the main muscles that support your jaw include your masseter muscle, the large muscle on the side of your cheek, and your temporal muscle, or the muscle that stretches over your temple. When these muscles are overworked and tight, you can experience jaw problems, pain, and even benign tooth pain.
But what role does your jaw joint play? Your disc serves as a cushion between the condylar head—your jaw joint itself—and the temporal bone. That joint can become dislocated or dislodged, which can manifest as clicking when you open and close your jaw, the inability to open your jaw completely, and pain. Without the necessary cushion, your condylar bone puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in that highly sensitive area. TMD can become a chronic problem and a seemingly unending cycle of pain, injury, and soreness. The good news is many cases can be resolved without surgery, so here are some things to try.
1. Get to the root cause.
Like most areas of medicine and health, finding the right treatment for a particular issue comes down to what is causing the issue. Sometimes it’s a complicated cause, and other times, it’s simple. The muscles and joints in your jaw can become over-activated, tight, and sore from nail biting, disordered breathing and sleep apnea, bruxism (tooth grinding), or malocclusions like overbite, underbite, or misalignment.
2. Address areas of stress in your life.
Yes, stress is a factor, and likely a big one. Studies show that dealing with chronic stress directly increases your chance of developing a TMD. This makes sense when you think about how often we may clench our jaws without realizing it when we’re stressed.
If your stress levels are already high, it can be overwhelming just thinking about trying to lead a more relaxed life. Start by gently changing one area of your life and go from there. Some lifestyle changes that reduce stress include getting more exercise, cutting back on screen time, and spending more time with the people you love.
3. Take a look at the types of foods you are chewing.
Amazingly, your jaw joint can put up with a lot of pressure—on average about 70 pounds per square inch. But when you have TMJ disorder, too much pressure can exacerbate things. Different foods require different amounts of pressure to chew, so if you are experiencing jaw issues, you can try cutting back on hard and crunchy foods, like pretzels, raw vegetables, candies, and crusty breads and bagels. You should also stop chewing gum because this can worsen the problem. The goal is to find foods that require less chewing and are easier on your jaw.
4. Figure out which techniques work for you.
In addition to getting to the root cause and cutting back on stress, your dentist can show you a few massage techniques and jaw exercises. You may also want to try using hot and cold packs. Heat relaxes your jaw muscles by increasing blood flow, and cold reduces pain and swelling. Also, pay closer attention to your posture. Poor posture is connected to an increase in TMJ disorders. If you’re temporarily experiencing a lot of pain, over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen, can help provide relief.
5. Try a custom-fit oral appliance.
Tomasik Family Dental can provide you with a custom oral appliance designed to treat TMJ disorder. This appliance is sized exactly for your mouth and teeth and works by gently holding your jaw at an optimal position to stop bruxism and protect your teeth and jaw joints, which, in turn, alleviates a lot of your jaw pain and TMD-associated headaches.If you believe you’re suffering from TMJ disorder, reach out to us! We want to help you find the perfect treatment(s) to provide lasting relief.