TMJ, or the joints that attach your jaw to the bottom of your skull, are incredibly complex in their movement, acting as sliding hinges that allow a wide range of varying motion, from the up and down motion of yawning to the side to side movement of chewing. If you have pain in this area though, you’re probably well aware of all the ways your jaw normally moves. All that motion can lead to plenty of painful reminders that something isn’t quite right. If you suspect TMJ pain to be the culprit behind your misery, read on to learn more about symptoms, causes, and your options for finding relief.
Signs of TMJ Disorder
If you are experiencing pain around the jaw and wondering if it’s more than just a temporary ache, here are other symptoms you might also experience:
- pain when chewing
- stiff jaw muscles and/or facial pain
- a clicking or popping sound when moving the jaw
- the feeling of the jaw locking into place
Know that TMJ pain is more common in women than men. Additionally, the presence of a popping or clicking noise alone when moving the jaw is not a sign of TMJ disorder; the accompaniment of pain, caused by swelling or inflammation in or around the joint, is a key symptom.
Causes of TMJ pain
So what’s the origin of all this pain? The potential causes can be anything from injury to the jaw, teeth grinding or jaw clinching, or poor posture. Arthritis or connective tissue diseases can also cause injury to the cartilage or joints around the jaw and lead to TMJ.
Often, TMJ resolves itself over time, but if twiddling your thumbs while in pain doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, a treatment plan can speed up the healing process. Your doctor might recommend a number of basic treatments starting with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine. In other cases, a mouth guard worn at night, gentle massage, or moist heat be in order. If these more conservative efforts prove unsuccessful, surgery might be something your doctor discusses with you.
To head off TMJ conditions at the pass, don’t be a stranger at your dentist’s office. Twice a year routine visits should help your dentist catch any potential TMJ issues before they become a painful problem.