What is TMJ and how to get relief from pain, chronic headaches and other symptoms. TMJ, the temporomandibular joint, is the jaw joint that allows a person to open and close their mouth. The joint is surrounded by muscles which can become painful and stiff when the jaw is misaligned. The condition can be easily diagnosed by a primary physician or dental practitioner.
What are symptoms of TMJ?
- Discomfort, tenderness and pain in the jaw joints and surrounding muscles
- Chronic headaches/migraines
- Pain in the throat or temple that radiates down the neck and shoulders
- Locking of the jaw joint
- Pain when yawning or chewing
- Popping or grating sounds when chewing
Each patient’s experience with TMJ differs, but these are the most common symptoms that may indicate a problem with the temporomandibular joint.
What causes TMJ?
Not all TMJ can be linked to one specific cause, outside of trauma to the jaw or face. Other factors may include Bruxism, sleep apnea and arthritis.
Bruxism is a common coexisting issue in people who have TMJ. Bruxism causes grinding and clenching of the teeth, usually while patients are sleeping. Grinding and clenching can wear down natural tooth enamel and break restorations such as veneers, dental crowns and bridges.
Arthritis can affect any joint in the body. It’s associated with joint overuse, and it becomes more common with age.
Arthritis of the jaw can damage the soft and hard tissues around the joints, changing the shape and functioning of the jaw.
How is TMJ diagnosed?
A medical or dental professional will need to evaluate the patient by physically examining the mouth. X-rays may be taken to get a better look at the surrounding bone and joint. With a proper examination, patients will have an accurate diagnosis and from there put an individualized treatment plan into place.
How is TMJ best treated?
There are several ways to treat TMJ. In rare cases, chronic TMJ may need surgery of the jaw joint. More often, non-surgical treatments have been proven to reduce pressure on the joints and decrease pain. Many patients can resume normal activity such as chewing and yawning without discomfort. Other forms of treatment may include, electrical neural stimulations, massage or an oral appliance.
TMJ is a degenerative and chronic disorder that should be addressed as soon as it is diagnosed. Proactive treatment can help to alleviate common side effects as well as reduce additional problems that may arise.
If you suffer from jaw pain schedule your appointment today with the office of Dr. Abeyta at 505-293-7611. Dr. Abeyta will determine the origin of your pain through a series of diagnostic tests. She uses the latest technology, including Digital Occlusal Analysis called Tscan. This state-of-the-art digital software helps detect occlusal disease to aid in treating and protecting the jaw and teeth from unbalanced forces and destruction.
Temporary Relief for Your TMJ
Temporary relief for your TMJ to help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
Advice such as applying ice packs, eating soft foods or
avoiding jaw movements, though well intended, isn’t very practical for a busy
life. Not all of us can juggle an icepack
while we work and living on Jell-O and milkshakes is not the healthiest of
diets. Below are a few real-life tips for temporary TMJ
The Gum Habit
While some people believe gum chewing will aid in the relief
of sore jaw muscles, studies have shown this is not true. Limiting excessive use of the jaw and surrounding muscles is much
more effective for relieving TMJ. We
want to take pressure off of the jaw and give it time to rest. Resting sore joints and muscles is the first
step in getting your TMJ symptoms to calm down.
So, for the time being, stash the gum.
Acupressure for TMJ
Acupressure uses the same trigger points to activate the
healing process as acupuncture. Though acupuncture activates these triggers
more powerfully, acupressure is something you can perform on your own.
There are many great online
resources for learning acupuncture points. I bet you didn’t know that some of the more
effective points for TMJ are not around the jaw.
Practice Jaw Relaxing – Woosah
It’s amazing how many times during the day people’s jaws become
clenched, evening while asleep. Be
mindful during the day and practice different jaw relaxing exercises.
- Press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your
mouth, directly behind the top front teeth. Next, use your tongue to apply
gentle pressure. Slowly open your mouth as wide as you can, then slowly close
it shut. Repeat
- Smile as big as you can! Open your mouth about two inches and release
the smile. Repeat
Check Your Alignment
Have someone take a picture of you sitting a standing. Do your ears line up with your shoulders? If not, you may have forward head
posture. This can be a huge factor in TMJ
as can other spinal and neck misalignments. One exercise to help correct this is to stand
against a wall or lie down on a hard surface.
Tuck your chin to your chest as if you’re squeezing a book between them and
count to 30. Repeat. This is a good way to strengthen neck muscles
and help relieve TMJ discomfort.
Consult Your Dentist
The above suggestions are for temporary TMJ relief. If you have severe TMJ pain or even mild discomfort it may be time to consider a different approach. Dr. Abeyta will determine the origin of your pain through a series of diagnostic tests. She uses the latest technology to including Digital Occlusal Analysis called Tscan. This state-of-the-art digital software helps detect occlusal disease to aid in treating and protecting the jaw and teeth from unbalanced forces and destruction. Call today to set up your appointment at (505)-293-7611
Why Jaw Alignment Affects Posture and Balance
Why jaw alignment affects posture and balance negatively is
easy to understand. Remember the
children’s song, “Dem Bones”. Well, just
like the song says, everything is connected.
When one part of the body is out of alignment, the whole body is affected.
The jaw is no exception.
When your upper and lower teeth are clamped together, each
tooth forms a tight fellowship with its opposing tooth. This bite determines
the position of your jaw, and in turn, the position of your head on your spine. A misaligned jaw can have a domino effect
that alters the posture and sends the entire body out of balance.
Studies have also found that a misaligned jaw can increase
muscle strain in the face, neck, head and shoulders. The continual strain can cause a host of
symptoms like backaches, ear ringing, headaches and vertigo.
Strained muscles have been linked to pinched nerves in the
face and neck. These nerves don’t
operate separately from the nerves that run throughout the body. One pinched nerve in the jaw or face can cause
numbness and tingling throughout the entire body which in turn impacts nerves
that control the balance.
Another problem caused by a poorly aligned jaw is the alteration
of the head’s posture. By changing how the head is held, undue
pressure is placed on the spine. This
strain impacts the entire posture and can lead to chronic pain, additional
nerve impediment, increased muscle strain…there go those dominoes.
Two studies were conducted to look at the correlation
between occlusion, how your teeth fit together, and balance. Researchers in Australia and Spain held
parallel experiments to answer the question. They looked at different
malocclusions like crossbite, crowded teeth, gaps between teeth and missing
teeth. First, they demonstrated that these types of tooth problems were
linked to poor stability. Then they showed that repositioning the jaw in a
neutral position fixed the problem.
Researchers in these studies also discovered that when the
jaw was out of position, it would negatively impact the trigeminal nerve, which
controls chewing and the vestibular nerve, which controls balance.
A dentist, who understands TMJ, can offer treatment to correct
the jaw so that the muscles, bones, and teeth can function without strain and
If you live in or around Albuquerque, New Mexico and have
questions about jaw alignment or TMJ,
please call the The Best Albuquerque Dentist at 505-293-7611 or visit our contact page to fill
out your information and take a virtual tour of our office.
This post is the second in a two part series on holistic dentistry, airway issues, TMD, and OMDs. If you haven’t already read part 1, I recommend you do before continuing.
Mouth breathing (continued)
When a patient chronically sleeps with their mouth open, it damages tooth enamel and gum tissue, decreases oxygen absorption, and causes other problems. For more information on mouth breathing, check out our page on airway issues.
Acupuncture & oriental medicine
Dr. Abeyta works with Dr. Lee Medina, DOM, to integrate oriental medicine into her practice. One of the most common uses of oriental medicine in Dr. Abeyta’s office is to treat TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder. TMD is often (although incorrectly) referred to by the abbreviated name of the joint, TMJ. Dr. Medina uses acupuncture, massage, and other non-invasive healing techniques to relax the muscles of the TMJ and provide pain relief for TMD sufferers.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders
Dr. Abeyta works with Sandraluz Gonzalez, a registered dental hygienist, and a certified orofacial myofunctional therapist. Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) are disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. OMDs may affect, directly and/or indirectly, chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, facial esthetics, and more.
Holistic dentistry reflects the interconnected nature of the human body
If you’ve made it this far into this post series, you’re probably starting to get the sense that all the disorders we’re talking about are part of the same, interrelated web of cause and effect. Only by taking a wide view, reinforced by a detailed understanding of the relationships between the body’s various systems, can a medical professional accurately diagnose and recommend treatment for these conditions.
Going to a dentist who is only trained to treat your mouth is a little like going to a mechanic who can only fix transmissions. Sure, they’re important, but there’s a lot of other parts on a car that are crucial, too.
Whether you suffer from TMD, airway issues, other OMDs, or just want to go to the most qualified dental team around, give the office a call today to set up an appointment.
[vc_row 0=””][vc_column][vc_column_text 0=””]This post is part of a two part series on treatments for TMJ pain. If you haven’t already read part 1, I reccomend you do so before continuing.
Clinical options for TMJ pain relief (continued)
Botox is an option for treating TMD. This is known as trigger point injection therapy. When botox is injected into specific sites, it helps relieve tension and relax the muscles of the jaw, neck, and face.
There are also clinical treatments that use electricity, ultrasound, or radio waves to penetrate the TMJ and relax the surrounding muscles. Some of these treatments are unproven, and they’re all fairly new. As our understanding of TMD improves, it is likely we will see more types of treatment become available, as well as improvements in our existing therapies. Learn more about clinical treatments for TMJ pain on our TMJ Treatment page.
If no other treatments help your TMD, there are surgical options. However, the vast majority of TMD sufferers can manage their TMJ pain without surgery.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”2527″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_shadow_3d”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
At home options for TMJ pain relief
Obviously you can use NSAIDs like ibuprofen to relieve TMD. This does provide temporary relief, but isn’t a great option for treating a chronic condition. You can also use a moist cold pack to reduce pain and inflammation, or a moist warm pack to help relax the muscles surrounding the TMJ.
There are a few habits you should consider if you suffer from TMJ pain:
- Avoid hard to chew foods as much as possible
- Avoid the extremes of your jaw’s range of motion
- Avoid applying unnecessary forces to your jaw, like resting your chin on your hand or holding the phone between your jaw and shoulder.
- Try some exercises designed to relieve TMJ pain, if your doctor, dentist, or physical therapist says they’re safe for you.
Get help for your TMJ pain
Dr. Abeyta uses a Digital Occlusal Analysis called Tscan to analyze your jaw and bite. With this information, she will recommend a personalized course of treatment. Don’t suffer pain you don’t have to. Make an appointment today.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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Quick – point to your temporomandibular joint!
If you pointed to the connection between your jaw and skull, good job. Unfortunately, that probably means you have TMJ pain. Most people are blissfully unaware of where the TMJ is and what temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, is. When it doesn’t have any problems we tend not to think about it. However, for millions of Americans it’s not possible to forget about the TMJ due to TMD.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”2524″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_shadow_3d”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
TMJ pain is common, but mysterious
TMJ pain is a poorly understood problem, especially considering 3 million cases of it are diagnosed each year in the US alone. For example, we don’t know what causes TMJ pain physiologically. We know that it can be related to an injury, like whiplash, or that it can stem from habitually clenching or grinding the teeth, often during sleep. Arthritis and issues within the joint can also contribute to TMD.
What can sufferers of TMJ pain do to alleviate their symptoms?
There are numerous treatments and therapies for TMD, from clinical options to at home treatments.
Clinical options for TMJ pain relief
Dr. Lee Medina, DOM offers acupuncture treatment to alleviate TMJ pain. Known as AcuDental Therapy, this works by combining acupuncture and essential oils to relax the muscles of the jaw and reduce anxiety. Lee has over 18 years of experience working in and around the mouth, and offers her treatments along side your normal dental care.
Medication is also an option for TMD sufferers. If appropriate, your doctor may prescribe high-dose NSAIDs to relieve pain, muscle relaxants to loosen the jaw muscles, or anti-anxiety drugs to reduce anxiety or stress based habits that contribute to TMD, like teeth grinding.
You may be able to use an appliance called an occlusal guard to relieve TMD. An occlusal guard keeps your teeth from touching while you sleep, thereby eliminating the grinding that contributes to TMD. Dental treatments to fix bite problems may also help.
Check back soon for Relieving TMJ Pain – Part 2[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]