Unless you are experiencing facial or jaw pain, you might not think about the joints in your jaws much. We take them for granted, but the joints that connect each side of our jaw to our skull are used every time we talk, swallow, or chew. With this much action, it’s not surprising that things can happen to upset the function of the joint.
A Long Name for an Important Joint
Named the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), each joint is made of a ball, socket, and a small fibrous disk that sits between the two. When something goes wrong with your jaw joints and/or jaw muscles that affects how the joint functions, it can result in TMJ disorders (TMD). Some people can have TMD for years before it becomes too painful to ignore, while others may develop TMD suddenly. If you ignore the symptoms, TMD can continue to deteriorate your jaw joints and the damage may get worse or lead to other serious health issues.
Do You Have Symptoms of TMD?
TMD ranges from mild to debilitating, and the following symptoms may be signaling that there is a problem with your temporomandibular joint:
- Frequent headaches
- Difficulty or pain when chewing
- Aches in and around the ear
- Ringing ears (tinnitus)
- Facial, shoulder, or neck pain
- Pain in your jaw or jaw joints
- Jaws that get “locked” in an open or closed position
- Popping or clicking sounds in the TMJ
- Facial swelling
What Causes TMD?
The cause of TMD can be difficult to identify since it can come from a combination of genetics, injury to the jaw, or bad oral habits like clenching or grinding the teeth. Other contributing factors can include:
- Wear and tear that erodes the joint
- Stress, which can cause repetitive tightening of muscles leading to pain
- The disk in the TMJ becomes misaligned
- Arthritis that damages cartilage in the joint
- Impact injury that damages the joint
Risk Factors for TMD
You may be at higher risk of TMJ disorders as a result of:
- Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia
- Injuries to your jaw
- Bruxism, or the continual grinding and/or clenching of teeth
- Constant chewing of things like ice and gum for long periods
- Certain connective tissue diseases
We Can Diagnose and Treat
TMD is not a specific disease; it is a condition, so there is no cure. But there is treatment to relieve the pain and restore jaw function. The first step is a proper diagnosis, because effective treatment differs based on the cause in each individual case.
At Magnolia Dental Care, we utilize state-of-the-art technology that allows us to accurately analyze and graph your bite, and then determine the proper caring, personalized course of treatment to bring you the relief you seek. If you live in Seattle, Washington, or the surrounding area and are ready to do something about your jaw pain, contact our office to schedule an appointment today.