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You probably don’t think much about your temporomandibular joints or even know what they are, but you use them all the time. Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the bones of your jaw to the rest of your skull, so when you’re chewing your food or having a conversation, they get a lot of exercise.
Wear on these joints can lead to TMJ disorders with symptoms ranging from annoying to painful, including difficulty chewing or swallowing and even locking of the jaw. Fortunately, your Kansas City family dentist is here to walk you through the causes and symptoms of TMJ disorders and what you can do to treat or prevent them.
Understanding TMJ. Sometimes, people call disorders of the temporomandibular joint TMJ for short. The actual name among professionals is temporomandibular joint disorder (a real mouthful) or TMD, but we’ll stick to TMJ for the purposes of this article, since it’s the more commonly used term. These disorders happen when the temporomandibular joints on either side of your jaw become misaligned or otherwise don’t move the way they should, and results run the gamut from mild to serious.
What are the causes of TMJ? The short answer is that anything capable of changing the alignment of your jaw can lead to TMJ disorders, including accidental injuries, misalignment of your teeth, grinding or clenching, stress, excessive chewing of gum, poor posture, and chronic ailments such as arthritis. Because there are so many potential causes, an estimated 15% of adults suffer from some form of TMJ disorder.
Who is at risk for TMJ? The full range of factors that cause TMJ disorders is still not fully understood, but as you can guess from the causes listed above, those with poor posture, an overabundance of stress, crooked or misaligned teeth, or chronic inflammatory arthritis are all at increased risk. TMJ disorders also seem to manifest more often in women than men, and they tend to affect adults between 18 and 50 years of age.
What are the symptoms of TMJ? Most TMJ disorders manifest as pain in your jaw which can sometimes also travel to your face, ears, or neck. This pain may present similarly to toothache, which you should always mention to your Kansas City dentist. Other symptoms include headaches, dizziness, muscle spasms, and trouble chewing or swallowing. Clicking or popping of the jaw when you speak, yawn, or chew can also be a symptom of a TMJ disorder. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your dentist for an immediate evaluation.
How is TMJ diagnosed? Very simply. If you have symptoms such as those listed above, your family dentist can determine if you have a TMJ disorder by performing a physical exam that will find the cause of your symptoms, whether that’s a bad tooth or TMJ.
What are the treatments for TMJ? The good news is that TMJ disorders can often be treated successfully with at-home remedies ranging from stress reduction to ice packs placed over the affected joint and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. However, diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders is never something that you should do alone. Talk to your Kansas City family dentist if you think you might have TMJ, and let us help you find a treatment that works for you!
Blacker Family Dental in Kansas City, MO specializes in family dentistry and offers personalized treatment for TMJ disorders. Call (816) 763-8400 or click here to schedule an appointment.