August 11, 2023
Since teeth are made for chewing and cannot do so without a strong and healthy jaw, your dentist is quite concerned with taking care of your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Located on either side of the skull, these joints are the connection points that allow the jaw to move, and it comes with its share of health concerns. Here’s what your dentist can do about TMJ disorders.
What Can Go Wrong with the TMJ?
The muscles associated with the TMJ serve as a pathway for many nerves. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, an improper bite due to dental misalignment, or excess pressure and stress can cause these tissues to become inflamed, at which point the slightest pressure will cause severe pain. This can make it impossible to speak, chew, or swallow in a comfortable manner. Cases of TMJ disorder number over three million every year, and almost all of them could have been prevented at a routine dental examination.
How Can I Know That Something Is Wrong with My TMJ?
TMJ disorders can usually be self-diagnosed because they are uniquely painful and debilitating. You should probably see a dentist if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Pain around the ears or jaw as you chew
- Pressure behind the eyes or cheekbones
- Recurring headaches or migraines
- Swelling or tenderness in the face
- The jaw locking in an open or closed position
- Ringing in the ears
How Can My TMJ Pain Be Treated?
A dentist can typically prevent any major discomfort by treating a TMJ disorder in its early stages during a routine appointment. It can be medically diagnosed by using an X-ray or if the patient describes some of the symptoms listed in the previous section. A dentist can treat a TMJ disorder by prescribing medications, physical therapy, or lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms over time.
Medication for lesser pain is usually an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. A muscle relaxant or a tricyclic antidepressant might be prescribed for greater pain. Physical therapy usually involves doing stretches with the jaw alongside treating it with heat and ice. In cases of teeth grinding, a dentist may give the patient a mouth guard or oral splint. They might also recommend avoiding chewing gum or hard candy, taking small bites while eating, and alternating between either side of the mouth while chewing.
Dentists are trained to tend to the oral health of their patients, including maintenance of the TMJ. If you experience distress in your jaw, your dentist can alleviate the pain and soon have your mouth back in great shape.
About the Author
Dr. Bita Kamali completed her Doctor of Dental Surgery at the Baylor College of Dentistry in 2000. She has since pursued continuing education in the latest advancements in dental care. Her office offers services including preventive, restorative, cosmetic, and emergency dentistry in addition to TMJ treatments. If you are concerned about pain when you move your jaw, contact her online or dial (972) 818-1300.