Most of us have, on occasion, experienced some type of pain or discomfort in our jaw. Whether it’s from some type of minor trauma or simply chewing too vigorously, most of the time a pain in the jaw will go away on its own. But if it doesn’t – if you experience ongoing pain and discomfort – you may be suffering from a more serious problem called TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder. For people with this condition, TMJ disorder can have devastating impacts on the quality of their life overall. From constant, unrelenting pain to bad headaches, lack of sleep and much more, TMJ disorder negatively affects virtually every aspect of a person’s life, both when they’re awake and when they’re sleeping.
The temporomandibular joint is located where your jaw opens and closes. Sufferers of TMJ disorder often experience not only pain in the jaw, but also soreness in front of the ear, and sometimes pain that extends throughout one side of the face. That discomfort can even spread into the patient’s neck, and can also manifest as earaches. People with TMJ often experience jaw pain when they chew food and yawn. Their jaws sometimes make a popping sound when they open and close, and can even lock in a certain position. Other symptoms include sensitive teeth and bruxism (or teeth grinding). Bruxism often leads to difficulty falling asleep and/or poor quality sleep. TMJ disorder patients sometimes complain of headaches when they first wake up and pain, in one form or another, that lasts throughout each day.
Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for TMJ disorder. Dentists often treat the condition with non-surgical methods such as bite adjustment and nightguard devices. Medications can help in some circumstances, as can practices that alleviate stress since that is often a contributing factor in the condition. Patients with more severe forms of the disorder may require surgery in order to alleviate the discomfort. One thing is certain: the longer you wait to get help, the worse your TMJ will become. If you are experiencing symptoms, a good place to start is by talking to a dentist who is trained in the treatment of TMJ disorder. He or she can begin by providing you with a diagnosis, then will most likely follow up by trying one of several non-surgical treatments. The majority of patients will find that one or any combination of these are very effective in eliminating the painful symptoms of TMJ disorder.