All About TMJ

I have just been diagnosed with TMJ.

What is this painful condition, exactly?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is actually a classification of a group of disorders of the jaw joint. This complex joint is located on each side of the head, where the upper and lower jaws come together. It is formed as a ball-and-socket type construction; you can feel the traingular shape of the joint when you place your fingers on the side of your head directly in front of your ears and move your jaw up and down. Disorders of the temporomandibular joints may consist of headaches, stiffness of the jaw, ear pain, clicking sounds when moving the jaw up and down or side to side, and locking of the jaw. There are a number of factors which can lead to one of these disorders: Teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw, especially while sleeping, can cause stiffness and ear pain; constant gum chewing can also stress the muscles and cartilage of the jaw joint. Misaligned teeth can contribute to joint discomfort, and repeated stress such as that caused by holding the telephone between the shoulder and the head can cause pain in the jaw, as well. Anxiety and emotional stress can cause unconscious clenching of the jaw, which is a leading cause of this uncomfortable disorder. Focusing on the underlying causes can often contribute to relieving the pain of TMJ jaw disorder and help patients to prevent it from recurring.

What are the common symptoms, and how is it diagnosed? TMJ pain can be commonly felt as a headache or pain in the facial area. About half of patients with temporomandibular joint problems have pain in their ears, and many report tinnitus, or ringing in the ear. Clicking sounds may be heard upon moving the jaw, and in some cases, the jaw may lock in one position.

How can I avoid this uncomfortable disorder? You can help yourself to avoid this painful condition by avoiding the most common causes of what is TMJ. Try not to overuse the jaw by habitually chewing gum, and wear mouth guards at night to prevent tooth grinding. Take appropriate steps to manage stress, and relax your jaw with your teeth apart when you notice that you are clenching due to excessive stress.

What are the most effective treatments for TMJ symptoms? Treatment and pain management for temporomandibular joint disorders are fairly straightforward. It is important to rest the jaw by consciously keeping the mouth slightly open, to recognize when you are grinding or clenching your teeth, and to avoid hard or chewy foods for awhile. TMJ soreness can be treated with heat or ice, as well as anti-inflammatories such as naproxen or ibuprofen.

Dental Research: The tmj association

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