While we may be all too familiar with various types of joint pain, from achy knees to painful shoulders, your jaw is also equipped with very small joints that can lead to disproportionately large discomfort. Called your temporomandibular joints (TMJs), when something goes wrong in these small hinge joints, it can lead to pain in your jaw, face, and neck, as well as headaches.
At Aura Dentistry, Drs. Negar Tehrani and Chang Yi have extensive experience helping patients find relief painful TMJ disorders.
To get started, we believe that education is key. If you’re among the 10 million people in the United States who have a TMJ disorder, the following information will prove useful.
While we may have stated that your TMJs are like most other joints in your body, that’s not entirely true, as your TMJs are quite complicated. Located on either side of your jaw near your ears, your TMJs connect your lower jaw to your skull. While we call TMJs hinge joints, they also allow side-to-side movement thanks to a combination of discs, sockets, muscles, and connective soft tissues.
Our point here is that the complexity of your TMJ joints combined with their heavy workload (think chewing, talking, yawning, etc.) makes them more vulnerable to problems that can lead to pain and malfunction.
Now that you better understand these small joints, let’s take a quick look at some of the more common causes of a TMJ disorder.
The term bruxism describes teeth grinding, which is a habit that millions of Americans engage in, especially while they sleep. The constant grinding and clenching can not only wear down your teeth, but stress your TMJs.
Like other joints in your body, arthritis can affect the soft connective tissues in your TMJs. As examples, osteoarthritis can cause the breakdown of the cartilage in your TMJs, and rheumatoid arthritis can lead to inflammation in the joint linings.
If you’ve sustained an injury to your jaw, it may wind up improperly aligned, which can lead to a TMJ disorder.
The small discs inside your TMJs that allow the wide range of motion your lower jaw enjoys can break down with age, leading to a TMJ disorder.
Treating TMJ disorders
If you’re struggling with a painful TMJ disorder, we thoroughly evaluate these joints to determine the underlying cause. If we find that bruxism is to blame, the good news is that a nightguard can go a long way toward solving the problem. In fact, a night guard works well for most TMJ disorders as these devices give your joints a break during the night.
We can also turn to anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy, which work well together as one relieves the pain and inflammation and the other helps strengthen your weakened joints.
If your TMJ pain persists, we may recommend that you see a specialist who can perform surgery to correct the issue.
If you want to find relief from your TMJ disorder, contact our office in McLean, Virginia, so our team can get to the bottom of the problem and set you up with the right treatment plan.