Tooth Talk with Brinkley Dental Group – TMJ or TMD What is it and what you can do about it!

Variously referred to as either TMJ or TMD, today we are going to talk about what a diagnosis of either might mean for you and some possible ways to handle your pain. For some people, the pain from TMJ/TMD can be debilitating. If you think you might be suffering from TMJ/TMD you will have pain in your jaw, possibly that extends up into your inner ear, causes headaches and/or migraines and may even impact your ability to smile or eat. As a cause, or a contributor, you might even be unconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth (bruxism) which will only make the condition worse. If you think you might have TMJ/TMD, it’s time for a visit to your dental health practitioner or to schedule an appointment with the team here at Brinkley Dental.

What is TMJ/TMD:

A diagnosis of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or Temporomandibular Disorder refers to the two joints connecting your jawbone to your skull and the pain you might be experiencing in that area. The pain will either be in the joint or in the muscles that control joint movement. You have a temporomandibular joint on each side of your jaw and may experience pain on one or both sides. The source of this pain might be genetics, an injury, bruxism (grinding your teeth) or perhaps even osteo or rheumatoid arthritis. 

What you might experience:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Pain in the joint
  • An aching type of pain that travels into or around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing food or smiling
  • Facial pain
  • Headaches or Migraines

And – it’s even possible that you will experience

  • Clicking or locking of the jaw.

What can you do:

Needless to say since eating, talking and smiling comprise a large part of our daily living, and because no one likes pain, you are going to want to address the source and treat the pain associated with a TMJ/TMD diagnosis. The good news is most often, the condition can be managed with proper self-care and invasive measures like surgery are not often required. Your Dentist or Doctor will take X-Rays or may order a CT Scan or MRI to better assess the extent of your condition and determine appropriate treatment. A TMJ arthroscopy may also be used as both a diagnostic tool and surgical option. Typically, your medical care practitioner will suggest a course of action that includes painkillers or anti-inflammatories and/or may also suggest muscle relaxants be used concurrently. Often, this is all that’s required to relieve the pain and provide your jaw an opportunity to “rest and recuperate.” Occasionally, you may require a more long-term solution that could take the form of an oral splint or mouth guard appliance that you would typically wear at night. You may even be prescribed physical therapy. If none of these methods work, and your pain becomes unmanageable, some form of surgery might be your last remaining option. There are both minimally invasive and more complicated surgeries associated with TMJ/TMD and you would be referred to a treating surgeon if such measures were required.

If this sounds like something you are experiencing, your first step is always to connect with your family Dentist or Doctor. Some patients, in addition to the suggested pain management techniques discussed above, will consider alternative therapies like acupuncture or applying heat or cold packs to the affected area and only eating soft foods for a period of time – again, to “rest” the jaw. TMJ/TMD isn’t life threatening but it can impact your life. If you have pain, contact us today and in the meantime, as always we’ll leave you with this reminder – “don’t forget to be a BFF  with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”