The temporomandibular joints (otherwise known as the TMJ) are small, but this doesn’t mean they don’t do plenty of heavy lifting. Connecting the upper and lower jawbones, they go to work every time you chew, yawn, laugh, or open and close your mouth.
So it’s essential that the TMJ remains in good working order. When it’s not, the discomfort is constant, wide ranging, and potentially debilitating. Do you suffer from frequent jaw pain, facial soreness, or even migraines? The root of the problem may be with your TMJ.
What Causes TMJ Problems?
The short answer is that TMJ disorder, otherwise known as TMD, has many possible causes and risk factors. In many cases, no cause at all can be determined — which does not mean the pain is any less real.
Between the ball and socket of each jaw joint is a soft disc, whose role is to absorb shock and allow for smooth, pain-free movement. This disc may degrade or come out of alignment, causing friction and pain. In other cases, the joint is damaged by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or a traumatic injury, leading to TMJ disorder symptoms. People who clench or grind their teeth are at risk for developing TMJ problems as well. Other possible causes and risk factors include:
- Poor posture can contribute to neck strain and abnormal jaw function.
- Stress can lead to jaw clenching and muscle tension.
- Misaligned teeth or a bad bite.
- Women aged 18 to 44 have an increased risk of developing TMJ disorder.
How Do I Know if I Have TMD?
Symptoms of TMD can vary widely from person to person, and can manifest in the jaw itself or all the way down to the shoulders. Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “true” to many of them, you likely have TMJ disorder.
- My jaw often makes a clicking, popping, or grating sound when I open it.
- My jaw often is painful, tender, or swollen.
- I suffer from pain in or around the ears.
- I often have difficulty opening my mouth due to jaw stiffness.
- My face often feels tired.
- My jaw sometimes locks.
- My bite seems to have changed, and my teeth no longer “fit” together properly.
- I experience neck or shoulder soreness on a regular basis.
- I have regular headaches or migraines.
TMD and Headaches
Do you suffer from migraines or chronic headaches? While these may be due to any number of causes, it’s possible that your headaches are rooted in TMJ disorder. How does this happen? While the TMJ itself is located lower down in the jaw, some of the TMJ muscles reach the cheeks and as far up as the top of the skull.
When you chew or clench or grind your teeth, the pain generated in your jawbone may travel through those TMJ muscles to other places around your head. The result is a headache, or even a migraine, which is an especially severe headache characterized by throbbing pain, sensitivity to stimuli, and nausea.
Headaches and migraines can be debilitating and make you unable to function day to day. But if your headache is caused by TMJ disorder, Texas Grins can provide you with a custom solution so you are able to get your life back.
How Will Texas Grins Help My TMD?
If you suffer from TMJ disorder, or TMJ-related headaches, we can fit you with a custom-made oral appliance, or nightguard. You wear this as you sleep, and it will help on a couple of fronts. The appliance will reposition your jaw to take the stress off the TMJ. This gives the joint the time it needs to heal on its own. The appliance will also prevent nocturnal teeth grinding, or bruxism, thereby helping to prevent further damage.
To make an appointment at our Willow Park, TX office, or if you have questions about TMD treatment or any of our dental services, call Texas Grins at (817)779-7111. You may also fill out our web form and we will be sure to get back to you.