You’ve probably heard of it. Perhaps someone you know has mentioned their TMJ is “flaring up.” If so, you probably nodded and showed sympathy, because it’s true that some patients with TMJ syndrome suffer intense or debilitating pain. Others manage any pain outbreaks with restrictions on their habits that require careful self-control. Either way, it is an uncomfortable complication that affects the jaw, mouth, head and neck. So, is TMJ syndrome a disease? Is it contagious? Could you have it right now? There’s no need to panic, but let’s discuss a little basic information before we discuss what to do about TMJ problems.
I Have a Temporomandibular Joint?
The acronym “TMJ” refers to the temporomandibular joint, as well as its connected muscles. The joint itself acts like a hinge, connecting your lower jaw to your skull, just in front of a person’s ears. There’s one TMJ on each side of the jaw. If this joint is not working properly, a person might develop pain, soreness, difficulty in chewing or speaking, and “clicking” or “clacking” when using their jaw. Any of these issues are often attributed to “TMJ” as a general term.
Pain from the TMJ often results from multiple factors, including genetics, trauma, and bad habits. Fortunately, it is not contagious, so you won’t get TMJ problems if your friend has them and they breathe on you. A person with symptoms of TMJ syndrome often experiences one or more of the following:
- Clenching or grinding of teeth (bruxism)
- Misalignment of the jaw
- Joint inflammation from arthritis, periodontitis, or other diseases
- Recent injury to the jaw
- High amounts of stress
- Aching in or around the ear
- Facial pain
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Locking of the joint, problems opening or closing the mouth
- Clicking sensation when chewing or speaking
Experiencing one or two of the above symptoms might not indicate TMJ issues. If you have constant pain or tenderness in your jaw or face – and especially if it’s affecting your daily life – contact your medical practitioner, or your dentist at the Yuba City Dentistry Group.
Coping with TMJ Problems
Thankfully, TMJ pain or discomfort is typically managed without surgery or other strong measures. To help with non-invasive measures, your doctor or dentist might suggest one or more of the following to help you:
- Refrain from chewing gum
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers, as instructed
- Stay hydrated
- Get plenty of good rest
- Lower your stress levels
- Avoid hard, crunchy foods
Some of these suggestions might be easier to accomplish than others, so talk to your dentist if you have any concerns about recommended treatments. If your pain is persistent or your course of action does not seem to be working, there are medical treatments available, including non-surgical techniques and appliances.
The best course of action is to talk to your dentist at the Yuba City Dentistry Group about any concerns you have dealing with facial pain, clicks, or soreness around your jaw. Give us a call for your next appointment, or you can schedule it here on our website. Let your dentist use their practical expertise to identify the issue, discuss a course of action, and follow up with you to make sure the treatment is helping.