TMJ pain is more than a pain in the neck, it can be a pain in the neck, head and face! If you already know what TMJ stands for, chances are you’re among the unlucky folks who have had a problem with this powerful and finicky part of your craniofacial system. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, and it’s the powerful joint that controls the opening and closing of your mouth by moving your lower jaw (i.e. mandible).
People with TMJ problems often experience headaches, oral and facial pain, or even neck pain. Many of these symptoms can be identified and treated by a dentist.
Think back to your last dental checkup and you may remember the hygienist or dentist asking you if you ever experience pain or clicking when you open your mouth up wide. They may have also asked you to clench your teeth and then pressed on the sides of your jaw and asked if it was tender. This is how a dental professional checks for TMJ symptoms.
Because TMJ is often linked to teeth grinding and clenching, another way a the dentist or hygienist can check for TMJ symptoms is by looking at your teeth. The TMJ is a very powerful joint, and teeth that are frequently clenched together under these extreme forces start to show distinct signs of wear. The dentist will check for this wear during your routine cleanings and exams. If they see significant signs of a problem they may ask you more questions to see if you may be having TMJ issues. A common treatment for clenching or grinding is a mouthguard (sometimes called a nightguard if you wear it when you sleep). This can protect your teeth from wear and can also help absorb the forces exerted on your jaw, which can reduce or eliminate related headaches or facial pain.
Sometimes TMJ problems can be caused by an uneven bite instead of teeth clenching, though one tends to lead to the other. Particularly if you have jaw pain focused on one side, this may be a sign that you’re biting down more on one side of your mouth and your TMJ is overcompensating. Dentists can help analyze your bite and determine if this may be contributing to your problems.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, discuss them with us and we can take a look to see how we may be able to identify and relieve your TMJ symptoms.