TMJ pain is the common name for temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or disease of the TMJ. There are several causes for TMJ and TMJ pain and all causes have different symptoms and different solutions. The issue is usually a muscular issue or a joint issue itself, or a combination of the two. Often when you see a dentist near you who specializes in TMJ, they will ask questions such as: do you ever get locked jaws, do you ever have morning headaches, and is your jaw pain on one side or on both. These questions, along with a complete physical and radiographic exam will let you dentist know if the issue is muscle related or joint related. Often TMJ starts as a muscle issue and the continued and untreated muscle hyperactivity leads to an issue in the joint itself.
There are many different causes for TMJ, so it is important to go to a dental TMJ specialist near you to let you know what you have individually. However, usually TMJ starts from a problem in your bite, often after your wisdom teeth are pulled or after you get braces or Invisalign, your jaw and bite become slightly off without you really noticing. Even though you don't or barely notice the change in your bite, it will cause your muscles to fire and clench more than they usually would and more than they would like to. This constant overactive stress on these muscles lead to a patient's jaw being sore, their jaw feeling tired, and headaches in their temples - especially in the mornings. Many patients will think that these symptoms are just part of normal life because they have lived with it for so long. But often these symptoms can be eliminated when the patient's TMJ is treated which can lead to a huge change in quality of life for the patient.
When treating TMJ disorders and TMJ headaches the first step is to determine what exactly the issue is and how bad the disorder and destruction is. Your TMJ dentist or TMJ doctor will examine your muscles and the joint and will often make you a night guard that will act as a diagnostic tool. If the night guard provides TMJ relief, and it is mostly a muscular issue, then the usual solution is to adjust the patient's bite so that it is more balanced, allowing the muscles to relax and work in harmony. Sometimes this can be achieved through small adjustments to the dental crowns and teeth. Sometimes, in more severe cases, the patient's bite needs to be changed drastically and a series of dental crowns or braces or Invisalign are needed to correctly adjust the bite. BOTOX is sometimes used in severe cases to help relax the muscles and lower the amount of TMJ pain and dysfunction.
If the TMJ, TMD, and jaw pain is an issue with the joint itself, then often the patient will have to wait until the joint stabilizes at which point the bite can be stabilized and the patient's jaw can be placed in a position that will lead to improved comfort and function. Sometimes TMJ surgery is needed in very severe cases but this is always a last resort and is avoided whenever possible.
Symptoms of TMJ disease include jaw clicking, ear and jaw pain on one side or both, pain in right side of face and jaw, sore jaw, jaw lock, jaw pain near ear, headaches in your temple, sore or loose teeth, or a tired jaw. If you have these symptoms, find the best dentist near you that specializes in TMJ therapy. Your dentist or other TMJ specialist will be able to diagnose your issue and either fix it completely or prevent it from progressing.
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