Do you experience throbbing tension headaches? What about unexplained soreness in your neck and shoulders? Have normal activities like chewing or speaking become painful? You may be experiencing the painful effects of TMJ disorder, an excruciating ailment that affects millions of Americans, especially women between the ages of 20 and 40.
TMJ disorder, also referred to as TMD, is often overlooked during medical exams and could even be misdiagnosed. A dentist can help you identify and treat the cause of your pain rather than just the symptoms.
November is TMJ Awareness Month, a national movement to help sufferers understand this ailment and how to find relief. Continue reading to learn what TMJ disorder is and what you can do to help relieve or eliminate the painful symptoms.
What is TMJ disorder?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint where your jaw connects to your skull. It functions as a sliding hinge to keep the movement of your jaw nice and smooth while avoiding collision with the bones in your skull. TMJ disorders (TMD) can occur if the joint cartilage is inflamed, erodes, or becomes misaligned due to injury or overuse.
How severe is TMJ disorder?
TMD is not to be taken lightly. Any dysfunction of the TMJ joint could produce the following painful symptoms:
- A locking jaw, making it difficult to open and close the mouth
- Tenderness and pain in the jaw
- Pain in or around your ears
- Migraines and tension headaches
- Neck and shoulder pain or stiffness
There could be multiple causes of TMD, including:
- Stress or injury
- A misaligned bite
- Orthodontic treatment
- Teeth grinding
- Arthritis or degenerative bone defects
- Poor posture (For example: Holding your head forward all day while staring at the computer)
What can you do to relieve TMJ pain?
If you have been experiencing some or all of these symptoms and still haven’t found a permanent solution, do not despair! A dentist can offer a fresh approach to treating the root cause—not just your symptoms.
Here are five self-care steps (recommended by TMJ specialists) you can try at home to prevent and relieve the symptoms of TMJ disorder:
- Avoid overworking the jaw joint by eating hard foods or chewing gum.
- Try gently massaging the muscles to release tension.
- Implement a mild daily exercise routine.
- Learn stress-reducing techniques.
- If you are in front of a computer all day, maintain good posture by taking short breaks to rest your arms and loosen up your back and neck muscles.
Your symptoms could improve by applying these self-care steps. However, to treat and eliminate the root cause of TMJ disorder, schedule a visit with a qualified dentist who specializes in the proper examination and diagnosis of the TMJ joint.
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The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.