When you open and close your mouth, does it sound like a cacophony of fireworks in there from all the pops and crackling you hear? That sound that you are hearing may be the sound of your temporomandibular joint working improperly. Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) has an important job and one that probably does not require much attention from you. It connects your jaw to the rest of your head, and when it works fine, then you do not have to think twice about it.
However, once it starts to give you problems, suddenly it may be all that you can think about. TMJ disorder is very common, but quite miserable, a condition that can strike at any time. When we here at Bellevue's Best Smiles meet a patient who is complaining of pain and popping in their jaw, then we want to quickly assess them to determine if they have TMJ disorder and get them started on treatment so they can get relief as quickly as possible.
What is TMJ Disorder and What Causes It?
The symptoms of TMJ disorder are hard to miss. Patients who suffer from this condition often report constant pain and agony from their jaw, and it often negatively affects their quality of life. Some of the major signs that someone has TMJ disorder include pain that radiates from the jaw, which can either go up to the ears or down to the shoulders. Tenderness at the jaw is often common, too. Unrelenting headaches are also another symptom that plagues sufferers of TMJ disorder. Discomfort when eating and chewing are a frequent occurrence, and patients sometimes notice that their jaw locks, making it difficult to close the mouth.
The causes of TMJ dysfunction are not very well understood and can arise for a variety of reasons. Stress is considered to be a major contributing factor, however. Grinding your teeth at night, called bruxism, has often been linked with this condition. Some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or other genetic or autoimmune conditions can also cause problems with TMJ. Injury to the jaw can also cause problems with your TMJ.
If we encounter a patient whom we suspect may have TMJ dysfunction, we will perform a thorough assessment of them to determine if they have this condition. We will ask them about their symptoms, then proceed with the exam. During this appointment, we may ask the patient to open and close their mouth to determine if we can hear the telltale clicking and popping. We may also palpitate (gently press) on the jaw and surrounding area to determine if there is tenderness. In some cases, we may advise x-rays or other imaging tests to give us a better look at the jaw and surrounding structures.
We Have Numerous Treatment Options For TMJ
There are many different treatment options available to patients with a TMJ disorder. Some of the more common treatments available to them are nighttime mouthguards, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, medications (including tricyclic antidepressants or muscle relaxants), or Botox® injections.
If you suspect that you may have TMJ dysfunction, or you would like to set up an appointment with us for a consultation, please give us here at Bellevue's Best Smiles a call at (425) 688-1345 today.