All About TMJ

It may seem like a cool party trick to make your jaw pop and click on command, but what’s going on inside your jaw joint (the temporomandibular joint or TMJ) isn’t cool at all. Those sounds are indications of damage in your joint that will only get worse if you ignore it.

Our team at Oral Facial Surgery Specialists at The Woodlands sees patients every day who suffer from TMJ syndrome, and no two cases are exactly the same. But no matter what the cause or which symptoms you have, we can identify the source and ease your pain quickly and permanently. 

Here’s a rundown of the most common causes of and treatments for TMJ disorders.

TMJ basics

The TMJ is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull, and you have one on each side. Like all of your other joints, the TMJ contains bones, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, nerves, and muscles, each of which can malfunction and cause pain if they’re damaged. 

About a third of the population experiences some type of TMJ problem, and up to 7% of them have pain so bad they need to seek professional treatment. It can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in adults 25-44 years old and affects more women than men.

TMJ disorder is an umbrella term for several function problems with your jaw joint. 

Common causes of TMJ disorders

Ideally, your TMJ acts like a sliding hinge. To keep the movement smooth, the bones in the joint are covered with slick cartilage and cushioned by a disc that absorbs pressure and shock. Anything that disrupts that system can cause TMJ, including:

A number of forces can cause these conditions, including arthritis in the joint, traumatic injury, genetics, connective tissue disease, and abnormal wear-and-tear from long-term teeth clenching and grinding.

What TMJ disorder feels like

Obviously, jaw pain is one of the main symptoms of TMJ disorder, but it’s not the only sign of a jaw problem. You may also feel:

Problems in your TMJ can radiate to your face and ears, which can be misleading. Once we identify the source of your pain, we can get you started on the right treatment.

What we can do to alleviate TMJ pain

Getting rid of your TMJ pain starts with an accurate diagnosis of the root cause. If your TMJ disorder stems from a muscle spasm, we work to relax that muscle through exercises and prescription medication if necessary.

If you grind or clench your teeth habitually, even in your sleep, a mouthguard or splint can provide a protective buffer to preserve your teeth and jaw. 

The next question is: Why are you clenching and grinding? If it’s due to high stress, you may benefit from management techniques, like breathing exercises, physical therapy, or biofeedback.

When TMJ disorder occurs because of a musculoskeletal misalignment, we can fit you with an appliance that gently repositions your joint over time. You may wear it all day and night or just while you sleep for the duration of the treatment until full function is restored.

We also offer steroid injections to reduce inflammation-related TMJ pain and give you the relief you need to continue with other valuable rehabilitative therapies.

TMJ disorder is common and highly treatable, so there’s no need to suffer with it. 

If you have pain in your jaw, face, or ear, or your jaw won’t open or close properly, contact us by phone or online today to request an appointment with one of our TMJ specialists. We may have you pain-free just in time for the holidays.

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