TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the place where your lower jaw attaches to your skull near the ear or temple area of your face. When something goes wrong with this joint, it is often referred to as TMJ, when it is actually a TMJ disorder. Problems with TMJ are common and can often be resolved easily with simple treatments.
When you do have a problem with TMJ, who do you call? Should you see a primary care physician? An ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist)? Or a dentist?
You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorder is most often diagnosed and treated by a dentist. A dentist diagnoses and treats your oral health as a whole, which includes the jaw. Symptoms and problems related to the jaw also affect the health of your teeth in many cases, and vice versa. Problems with your teeth can cause TMJ disorder to occur. Because of the close relationship between dental health and jaw health, TMJ disorders are most often treated by dentists.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorder has a wide range of symptoms, some of which are confusing, making the patient think the problem is elsewhere instead of the jaw. Symptoms include:
- Jaw pain. Jaw pain can occur at any place in the jaw or at the joint where the jaw meets the skull in the temple area.
- Restricted movement of the jaw. Sometimes the joint will lock, making it difficult to open and close your mouth.
- Pain in the teeth. Your teeth will sometimes feel sore due to grinding or clenching your jaws together.
- Headaches. It is common to experience headaches with TMJ disorder, especially in the temple area of the head.
- Ear pain. Sometimes the pain of TMJ feels as if it is in the ear, often mistaken for an ear infection.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your dentist to schedule an examination. It’s very common to think your ear pain is related to something else rather than your jaw, but it is a normal symptom of TMJ disorder. Unless you are prone to ear infections or you have recently experience cold or flu symptoms, it is more likely related to your jaw pain.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
There are a variety of factors that can cause or contribute to TMJ disorder, such as:
- Injury. If you experience a blow to the jaw or the side of the head, it can cause the jaw joint to be off center or for the cartilage and muscles to be inflamed.
- Teeth grinding. Long term teeth grinding or clenching inflicts pressure on the jaw joint and can cause it to become irritated or inflamed.
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation of the joints including the TMJ.
- Connective tissue diseases. These types of disorders affect tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, all of which can be a problem when it comes to TMJ disorder.
Treatment for TMJ Disorder
Some treatment options can be applied at home and others require the help of a dentist. The first steps should include applying ice to the jaw to reduce inflammation and eating soft foods to allow the jaw to relax. You can also take anti inflammatory pain relievers.
If these do not provide relief, your dentist may prescribe you stronger pain relief medication and muscle relaxants in order to accelerate relief and healing.
The next step in the treatment process may involve wearing a mouthguard to prevent teeth grinding and clenching. By restricting these behaviors, the jaw will have time to heal and the joint will eventually relax.
If none of the above can relieve your TMJ disorder, your dentist may recommend injections or even surgery. Severe cases may require replacement of the joint.
Experiencing Symptoms of TMJ Disorder? Contact Brian K. Dennis, DDS
If you’re wondering who you should see about TMJ symptoms in Albuquerque, contact Brian K. Dennis, DDS. Dentists are the most qualified medical professionals to diagnose and treat TMJ disorder. Dr. Dennis’s practice has been providing a complete range of dental services to Albuquerque and the surrounding area for over 30 years.