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Bellevue's Best Smiles

Do you have a TMJ Disorder?

Woman holding jaw due to TMJ painThe TMJ (temporomandibular joint) functions as a sliding hinge that connects the jaw to the skull. Each side of the jaw has a joint. TMJ disorders (which are a form of temporomandibular disorder or TMD) occur when the joints suffer pain and movement of the jaw is hindered.

What are the Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder?

The usual signs that one has a TMJ disorder are soreness or pain in the areas of the ears, face, temporomandibular joints and jaw. Other symptoms include difficulty eating or opening and closing your mouth all the way. Also, listen for any sounds of grating or clicking when you chew, open or close your mouth.

If there’s no pain involved with the jaw clicking, you likely won’t need any treatment. However, you should seek medical attention if you have continual soreness or pain in the jaw, or if you can’t fully open or close it. Dr. Lynn Jones will examine you to determine potential causes and remedies.

What are the Causes of a TMJ Disorder?

It is often hard to pinpoint the precise cause of a patient’s TMJ disorder. The pain may arise from more than one factor. Jaw injuries, arthritis, genetics, and bruxism (teeth grinding) are all possible causes.

Temporomandibular joints combine hinge motions with sliding actions. The section of the bones that joins with the joint are covered over with a layer of cartilage. A small shock-absorbing disk separates the joints and allows the movement of the jaw to operate smoothly.

If this disk moves out of position or erodes, discomforting TMJ disorders can result. Disorders also occur if arthritis or impacts damage the cartilage covering the joint.

How are TMJ Disorders Treated?

If you have a TMJ disorder, you need to know how to treat it properly. Here are some things you can do by yourself.

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies

Stay aware of any stress-reducing habits you may have, such as grinding your teeth, biting your nails, or chewing on hard objects, and strive to limit them. You also don’t want to overuse your jaw muscles, so eat softer foods, cut up your food into smaller pieces, and avoid sticky foods and gum.

Dr. Lynn Jones can also teach you exercises that allow you to strengthen and stretch the muscles in your jaw. You can also massage your jaw muscles. Alleviate pain by applying a moist heat source or an ice pack to your face.

Alternative Medication

TMJ disorders often involve continual pain, but you can deal with this through alternative medical techniques. Acupuncture specialists treat pain by sticking very thin needles into certain areas of the body. Slow, deep breathing, can relax your muscles and make the pain subside. You can also monitor how tight certain muscles are with electronic biofeedback devices and combine this knowledge with your other relaxation techniques.

The soreness and pain that arises from TMJ disorders are most often temporary and are treatable with care plans that the patient manages on their own. Most of the time surgery is rarely needed, even though many patients show improvements afterward. If we do opt for that option, we will typically exhaust the ordinary methods first.

For more information, please contact our office at (425) 688-1345.

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