TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome) is one of the most common dental problems that people experience. While many people have heard the term ‘TMJ’ before, it’s safe to say that most don’t truly understand what it is and what can be done to prevent problems associated with this important joint. This is because many of the symptoms and signs of TMJ are common with other conditions. Recurring headaches, neck pain, and earaches are some of the first signs you may be suffering from TMJ, but these symptoms can also be associated with hundreds of other conditions. This is why it is so important for you to visit your local Las Colinas dentist on a regular basis. He will be able to determine if the symptoms you are having are indeed TMJ, or something else.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint is an important hinge that basically connects your upper and lower jaw. In the event that hinge is no longer working properly, it can result in a popping sound. In some cases, the jaw may even appear to “get stuck” for a moment or two. Determining what the exact cause of TMJ is can be quite daunting, but there are a handful of circumstances and instances that are known to cause TMJ, including:
- Blows to the face, specifically the jaw
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Bad habits
- Grinding the teeth
- Clenching the teeth
- Malocclusion (when the teeth or bite is misaligned)
- Tight muscles
These are just a handful of the most common, known causes of TMJ. When the muscles surrounding this joint are tight, it can cause it to spasm and be quite painful for the individual. It is at this point that a patient may experience referred pain in other parts of the body, such as the head, neck, or shoulder. In some cases the joint can become inflamed, which may result in pain, redness, swelling, heat, or even loss of function.
Tips for Preventing TMJ
In order to keep the temporomandibular joint healthy, it may be a good idea for patients to perform a series of exercises to strengthen the jaw and surrounding muscles and ligaments. Here are a series of other tips to help prevent TMJ disorders:
- Avoid chewing gum or biting on objects (such as pens) if you have occasional bouts of jaw discomfort
- Avoid taking large bites of food when eating
- Massage the jaw, cheeks, and temple on a regular basis
- Apply heat if you experience spasms
- Do your best to have good posture when sleeping (including neck support)
- Gently stretch the jaw to keep the pain from returning
If you have any questions about TMJ, the signs, causes, or how to prevent it, please contact Cosmetic and Family Dentistry of Las Colinas today. It is our goal to make sure all of our patients are educated on smart oral health and have the tools necessary to maintain a healthy mouth, jaw, teeth, and gums.