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Is your Jaw Talking to you?

TMJTMJ disorder is an oral condition that more people hear about these days. Just hearing the term, though, doesn’t equate to understanding how to recognize the signs of a problem in the jaw, or knowing what to do about it. We want to dive into this topic so you can better interpret what your jaw may be telling you.

What is TMJ disorder?

When the jaws that operate the movement of the lower mandible do not work properly, the term TMJ may be used to describe such a situation. TMJs are the joints that make chewing possible. They are called TMJs because, well, no one wants to say temporomandibular joints if they can help it! More often than not, these joints work just fine in conjunction with their cohorts, the ligaments and muscles of the jaw. Sometimes, though, too much stress is applied to this network, and the jaw starts talking; and by that, we mean that unpleasant symptoms arise.

Signs of TMJ Disorder

There are several telltale signs that the jaw is in a bit of distress. TMJ disorder is not necessarily a serious condition, but it is not one that you want to ignore, either. Depending on the degree of dysfunction, symptoms may become distracting.

  • Chronic headaches and migraines may stem from TMJ disorder.
  • Teeth may become overly sensitive and painful.
  • Jaw stiffness may range from mild to locked in place, lockjaw.
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears may occur, or ear pain.
  • The jaw may feel sore or tender or may become swollen.
  • Chewing may elicit loud clicking or pop noise.

TMJ Treatment

Fortunately, many people with symptoms of TMJ disorder find relief in conservative care. If it is determined that grinding and clenching occur, a night guard oral appliance may be worn to reduce the extensive stress on the jaw and oral structures. Because grinding and clenching are stress-related habits, patients may also relieve symptoms by implementing activities that reduce stress into their daily life. Finally, oral appliances are available to encourage proper jaw positioning.

Conservative care is the first line of defense against TMJ disorder, but not the only option. In severe cases that do not resolve with oral therapies, a minor, outpatient surgery may be performed to eliminate scar tissue and reduce inflammation.

Help is available for TMJ disorder. Learn more in our Methuen or Windham office.