A healthy, injury-free TMJ allows your jaw to move smoothly and without pain. Many TMJ disorders are caused by either damage to the cartilage that cushions the joint from the jawbone, or by damage to the small, shock-absorbing disc that sits between the joint and the bone. TMJ problems can also be caused by:
Even though the exact cause behind TMJ pain isn’t always clear, certain factors can increase your risk of developing a problem. Having any type of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, is one such risk factor, as is having had a jaw injury in the past. Simply being female can also increase your risk: Women are four times more likely than men to develop a TMJ problem.
While the symptoms of a TMJ disorder depend on its specific cause, common symptoms include:
If the disorder is particularly severe or goes untreated for too long, more severe symptoms may develop, including:
Proper diagnosis is a key step toward proper treatment of any TMJ disorder, and the dentists at Southern Connecticut Dental Group are specially trained to check your joints and muscles for tenderness. They’ll spot any other signs of the condition, too, including clicking, popping, and difficulty moving. Although TMJ treatment often includes prescription medications — including pain-relievers, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants — lifestyle interventions may be most beneficial for many patients. Your dentist can show you jaw exercises specifically designed to strengthen and stretch your jaws, and may recommend that you switch to a liquid or soft diet to rest your jaws. Your dentist may also ask you to: